My bottom line is "spreading the word" and there are a few magazines out there that give me that privilege.
Business & Commercial Aviation Magazine, in particular, has a lot of good operational content and I collect a lot of their articles from other writers. I think they are the finest aviation magazine for pilots out there and I can't recommend them enough.
I get a lot of requests to reprint these articles and the rules from Business & Commercial Aviation Magazine are you can do that, but you cannot alter the copy and must include the following: "Reprinted with permission. Copyright Penton Media, BCA magazine, 2019." (Please let me know too!)
These are the B&CA articles only. There are several from other magazines included in the alphabetical listing.
I've always aspired to become the top instructor in any squadron, flight department, or other group of pilots. But quite often I had to take another path as a standards captain. The title varied: check airman, flight examiner, or standardization/evaluation pilot. But in each case I learned that being a standards captain didn't mean the instruction had to stop. In many ways, a standards captain is the top instructor.
I spoke at the annual Pilatus Owner's and Pilot's Association meeting in 2015 and was alarmed by all the stories of FAA violations against these single pilot operators. That got me interested in to figuring out just who was on whose side and how much good those NASA ASRS forms really do.
Is VREF good enough for your approach speed? Should you adjust it? If so, by how much? And once you've done that, should you get rid of the adjustment prior to getting to the runway? How do you do that?
What does a "demonstrated crosswind" really mean? How about V1? This and many other items of performance are decoded here.
Just because an approach plate says "TERPS" or "PANSOPS" on it doesn't mean you can fly it to minimums. Sometimes that approach will be impractical, improbable, or even impossible.
We often used the term "assumed risk" in Air Force safety circles to describe the fact we, as pilots, assume a level of risk everytime we fly. I've explored that here, using the friendlier term "assumed safety" because our passengers are making that assumption.
I think we should treat our cockpit automation as fairly competent, but imperfect, student pilots. Trust but verify.
The pilot shortage is real and that means a generation of aviation gurus are too busy to mentor. We need to fix that.
There is no shortage of bad ideas out there, but the ones that concern me are old sayings that have a history of being wrong yet are still embraced by some pilots. Let’s look at a few.
In military circles you probably heard, "Murphy was a grunt." That isn't true, he was an Air Force engineer. But much of what you heard about Murphy's Law is wrong, including how it is phrased. Looking at the law's origins can help us to fly more safely. I think we aviators are better off rephrasing the law this way: "If something unsafe can happen, it is up to us to be ready for it in case it does happen.”
The editor at Airways Magazine heard about me and asked for an article on whatever I chose. This is the story of my first domestic flight as the PIC on an EC-135J (Boeing 707).
Most of us captains have one thing in common: We think we are good captains and that our crews agree. Nine out of 10 benevolent dictators agree: “My people love me!” When the person in charge asks you for your opinion, your answer is probably preordained. “Yes captain, you are a good captain.” I’ve concluded that good aircraft captains have a few things in common: They are good pilots, they understand their job as captain, and they know how to command as leaders. If you fall short in any of these categories, you need to pick up your game if you ever hope to be a good captain. If you have these skills already, you need to work hard to maintain them.
I was a copilot a few times and had a chance to counsel new copilots many more times. Over the years we came up with a few ideas on how to make things work for copilots, flight engineers, load masters, flight attendants, and even for captains. And these ideas have withstood the test of time. First, everyone needs to have empathy for everyone else. If you don’t understand what drives the captain, or if the captain doesn’t understand what drives the crew, the crew will be dysfunctional. Second, everyone needs a large dose of tact. Words broadcasted are not always received as intended and the diference can be crucial. Finally, everyone needs to know when and how to challenge any member of the crew headed in the wrong direction.
The very nature of pilot licensing instills upon us the need to constantly become better at what we do. A brand-new private pilot wants to add multi-engine and instrument ratings, followed by a commercial license and, perhaps, an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) rating. We aren’t alone in this type of career stratifcation, but few professions have as many levels on the way from novice to professional. Before I got my ATP back in 1986, I could think of nothing loftier. Since then, I’ve noticed many ATPs jump off the quest for more and more knowledge and start to coast. They might still aspire to be better pilots, but the need to become better is no longer a priority. Lost on these goalless pilots is that in the quickly changing world of aviation, if you fail to move forward, you will fall behind.
As with other professions, the normal progression for a pilot on the way to becoming a professional aviator means earning progressively higher and higher levels of certifcates and ratings. Once you earn your ATP, you think you’ve arrived. But even with that achievement, no one (no insurance company that is) will let you sit left seat in a heavy jet just yet. Why? Because for all intents and purposes, you are still a student pilot! Ironically, we all began as students hoping to graduate to our professional lives. But lost on many of us is the fact that our apprenticeship never ended. We will always be students, so we might as well learn to be better students.
Who are you? Do you first think of yourself in terms of your professional or personal life? There is no right answer. Many of us aviators have other professional endeavors, and our personal life can be simpler or more complicated than our professional life. Looking only at the aviator aspect of our professional life, I think it should be a given that we expect a certain minimum level of skill and knowledge. I believe this is a prerequisite to being able to call yourself a professional aviator. When I think about what character traits are needed for any aviator to become a better aviator, I think of honesty, diligence, responsibility and respect. Without these four traits, any hope of becoming a better aviator is diminished.
I was asked to do this for Jeppesen and was happy to see it widely disseminated.
This is something we in the USAF grew up with where the two airplanes involved were both F-4 Phantom IIs "beak to beak" with a closure speed of 900 knots. Pretty scary stuff. I tamed this down to a GV at 200 knots and a Cessna 172 at 100 knots and guess what? It is still pretty scary.
I've heard from early on you have 8 minutes to fight a cabin fire before it is no longer controllable, and you have to get the airplane on the ground in 15 minutes or less if you want to do so under you own terms. This article explores both of those ideas.
Do you get nervous before a check ride? It’s only natural. Have you ever made a mistake early during a check ride and then had to worry about it as you tried to concentrate during the rest of the flight? That’s a natural reaction, too. But dealing with nerves before and during a check ride is a skill you can master.
The full title of this article is "Checklist Discipline: Against the Flow." Can you guess where I stand on the issue of flowing a checklist or doing it by following the "Challenge-Do-Verify" procedure? Well here is why I feel so strongly about this.
If you find yourself circling at minimums, especially on an older style TERPS approach, the odds are stacked against you.
This is the "I'm blind" story I've told in public a few times. The editor really wanted it in print, so here it is.
Is having Internet access in the cockpit useful? Absolutely. Does it make flight operations safer? Without a doubt. Can it be a distraction to the point of jeopardizing safety? Yes. A good Standard Operating Procedure is vital if you want to avoid the pitfalls.
Our manuals aren't very friendly on the topic of contaminated runways, but there are things we can do to demystify how the snow and ice impact our landing distances.
I've had more than a few readers dispute the contention that "dive and drive" is dangerous. I wrote this article hoping to put an end to that idea.
When we get comfortable in an airplane or operation, we tend to let our guards down and can become undisciplined and sloppy. There is a way to prevent this.
I continue to see Gulfstream pilots who insist the "wing low" method is how we deal with crosswinds. But the "crab" method is wrong. Chances are, if you are flying a business jet, you may need to revise your crosswind landing technique.
I'm told there is too much math in this article and I suppose that may be true. But if you use obstacle analysis software, you need to read this to understand the risks you are assuming.
There is a theory in military aviation that enemy flak, anti-aircraft rounds, or even missiles don’t matter because only one is meant for you. And if it was your time to go, the “Golden BB” bearing your name was going to get you no matter what action you try to avoid it. My theory is a little different. I do believe there are Golden BBs out there, but they don’t bear anyone’s name. Rather they adhere to a first come, first served policy. Your job as a professional pilot is to learn how to dodge them. And after you do, it is your duty to teach others the lessons you have learned.
Some pilots don't see a problem with maintaining qualification in more than one aircraft type, others say it is a recipe for making mistakes. I'm not sure how one keeps proficient in two or more types of aircraft but sometimes the job dictates it so you have to do the best you can. Here are a few pointers on how to do just that.
If you are in the business of moving people from Point A to Point B, you could/should/must be in the business of letting these people--let’s call them passengers--know what to expect when things go well and not so well. A lot of the specifics depend on your operation, but in my view, they shouldn’t. What follows is a checklist of sorts that you will only have to run once, but when you do, it might change the way you look at passenger briefings.
The flying public has a lot of misconceptions about aviation in general and how we do our jobs in specific. It is even worse when pilots of any kind have some of these same misconceptions. Most professional pilots know better, but it may be worthwhile to have a good understanding of the reason the misunderstanding exist. That way you can better explain it when one of your passengers ask.
How did the pilots of case_study_, slip through the SMS audit process and pass so many recurrent checkrides when they were guilty of, as the NTSB put it, "habitual, intentional non-compliance," and (in my view) worse? More importantly, how can we fix such pilots?
If you are not a U.S. pilot, how do you prepare for your first flight to the USA? Well, it is just like what we do when flying to your country. You look for the AIP. You read through the Jepps. And then you call a friend who has been there before. Here are a few hints from us. The U.S. is a friendly foreign destination, but there are a few things you should know that you can't find out reading an AIP.
Getting the most miles or time from a drop of fuel, the techniques depend on what kind of wing and engines you have.
The new Runway Condition Assessment Matrix gives us three numbers, such as "5/5/5" and from that we are supposed to be able to use to assess our stopping capability. But is it really a precise number? Your manuals probably do not translate those runway condition codes into distances. But even if your books understand these RCCs, you need a healthy dose of skepticism if you want to stop your airplane on the available pavement.
Not every aircraft has AFM Immediate Actions; but even many that do could be improved. In either case, how do you commit these things to memory? You might consider taking a page from an old Air Force trick.
I don't have a "touchy feely" education but this article seemed to have struck a nerve. I got calls from industry and academia alike about this one.
Talking about fear in the cockpit was something that was verboten in my Air Force flying and perhaps that instilled in us a kind of fearlessness, the idea that you deal with problems as they come and dwell on the emotions later (if at all). So when I hear someone say they were scared it gets my attention.
When I found out the other pilots in my flight department didn't have a lot of zero-G experience, I sent everyone (including me) to upset training. This article dives into that subject.
I had always wanted to do an article about pavement strength (PCN/ACN) and here it is. The editors usually choose very good titles, but this one can be misleading.
It took me a year to write this and while I was working on it another writer came up with an article that covered "what happened." My article covers more about "why it happened" and "how to prevent it from happing again." That resulted in his article becoming "Part 1" and mine "Part 2." But they both stand on their own.
It has always bugged me that we don't have minimum duty rest or maximum duty day limits for mechanics. And that's not all the ails us when it comes to maintaining our airplanes.
Leadership is the subject of countless books, courses, and even entire schools. But it is something few really learn well. With that background in mind, a list of questions takes form: Are great leaders made or born? Can leadership be taught? Does good “followership” pave the way for good leadership? I contend that leadership lessons are best learned “under fire” and that you cannot really appreciate the lessons unless you have the risk of failure. And a good leadership mentor can provide you with the opportunity to fail, which translates into the opportunity to succeed as a leader.
If you've ever had the "Terrain, terrain!" warning when flying into a mountainous area airport, you will have learned the hard way that you cannot approach flying into these airports as just another airport, there are extra steps involved in your flight planning. I have a fair amount of experience at these airports and have consulted with pilots who have much more. Here are a few things you should consider before your first (or any) flight into one of these airports.
My first impression of the G500's cockpit was that it was futuristic and a work of art. The more I heard about the airplane the more I wanted to get my hands on one to fly. I got my wish and will soon take delivery. The next question was could the training rise to the challenge of the jet? The answer was a resounding yes.
The "Normalization of Deviance" became a vogue term after the May 2014 crash of Gulfstream GIV N121JM. In fact, I wrote about it in 2017. But after three years what has changed? I think it is time to rethink the problem so as to make compliance the norm.
I've always called this the "Good Pilots Gone Bad" phenomenom. Whatever you call it, it is a real problem we need to be on guard against.
I've been hiring pilots for decades and usually the philosophy is to the hire the best person available. Now I am in an organization that says hire the best, and if you can't don't hire at all. So it has taken a while. Along the way there have been lessons learned.
Is fuel planning for an oceanic trip just another mudane task you cede to your flight-planning service or does it force you into a more primal stage of pilotage in which the details require extra scrutiny? I believe a more experienced international pilot will excercise more caution, not less, than a novice.
Most of us who fly professionally from the front two seats of aircraft carry amongst all our many qualifications the title of instrument-rated pilot. Flying an instrument approach to minimums as a single pilot is a difficult task and requires a special set of skills. You would think that having two pilots for the task greatly simplifies everything. It does, provided the two pilots work as a team. And that teamwork begins with the approach briefing. Are your approach briefings effective? Our industry is at a crossroads when it comes to the mechanics of how to brief an approach. Most of us are doing it incorrectly. If your briefing today is the same as it was ten or twenty years ago, chances are you are not taking advantage of technology and you are doing it incorrectly too.
Saying "No" to the person signing your paycheck can be difficult. But using a few examples I hope to provide a few techniques on just how to do that.
Paper in the cockpit has been a fact of life almost from the beginning, especially when flying internationally. Those days are over for many of us, especially if you know the rules and have the right tools.
When it comes to aviation, I can be paranoid about a great many things. I am paranoid about fuel, pressurization, gear pins, the list goes on and on. But this paranoia has served me well over the years. Here are a few techniques to help you capitalize on your membership in the Parnoid Pilots Club.
If you are in a small !ight department, say less than 10 pilots, I think you are at much higher risk for three hazards that you may not recognize until it’s too late: (1) Lacking required skills and knowledge. (2) Becoming complacent by taking shortcuts around standard operating procedures (SOPs). (3) Becoming intentionally noncompliant with standard operating procedures (SOPs). Higher risk than who? Well, higher risk than pilots in large organizations with robust standardization departments. There is, fortunately, an easy fix. Here's how.
Regulatory fuel minimums will hardly get you from your destination to alternate, much less allow for traffic delays or holds. You need to raise those quite a bit.
Not all pilot errors are created equal; some are critical and others less so. Understanding the difference will allow you to place your focus where it needs to be and to learn. Admitting to a pilot error in front of your peers and those who look up to you is hard word. But the more often you do that, the less often you will have to.
The magazine asked me to fly the Cessna Citation Longitude and write about it, it was a pleasure to do that in every sense of the word. It is a marvelous airplane, the finest in the Cessna line up. In fact, it has quite a few features I wish my Gulfstream had.
The Central Japan Railway Company System, the Shinkansen, has carried over 20 billion passengers since 1964 without a single fatality or injury. And they've done that in one of the most densely populated countries in the world. How is that possible? Some credit belongs to their "Shisa Kanko" method, Pointing and Calling. It is a technique that can pay dividends in your cockpit.
I've always thought investigating an operation before the crash could prevent the crash.
As a unique demographic, it seems we pilots never run out of ways of to be, well, stupid. (Me too.) I think the best way to learn how to avoid that is to examine the actions of others who clearly did not.
What defines professionalism among pilots? Dr. Atul Gawande describes professionalism using three terms: selflessness, skill, and trustworthiness. When describing pilots, he adds a fourth: discipline. We would do well to examiner ourselves under a microscope with a filter for those characteristics. You can also apply them to any accident where pilot error was implicated. For example, the May 15, 2017 crash of Learjet N452DA.
Have you ever found yourself in the cockpit wishing you could read the other pilot's mind or struggling to find the right words to let the other pilot know what you need? No, I haven't found the magic required to read minds. But I do think there is a way we can all facilitate cockpit communications to a point where it seems we can read each other's minds. And that is a good thing.
Ask any fighter pilot about situational awareness and the response will focus on the best ways to turn the odds during aerial combat and how to improve one’s survivability in any set of circumstances. While outside of military aviation our interests don’t include the need to “apply steel on target,” survival should be a top concern of all who fly. The problem with the term “situational awareness” is that its meaning has been appropriated by the academics. But does it take a Ph.D. and volumes of text to explain something so primal and basic for those of us who fly?
Is dividing the captain's command authority ever a good idea? The margin of error during a high speed abort can be pretty thin and having a well-trained first officer can be a life saver. Or, alternativley, it could introduce a level of confusion in the cockpit. The answer, as with many things in aviation is: it depends.
Just about everyone these days has settled on the same litany of callouts during takeoff: “80 knots,” “Vee one,” “Rotate” and “Vee two.” Some operators use 100 kt. instead of 80 kt. and the V2 call is sometimes omitted. But “Vee one” is more or less universal. I have been using it since I started "flying multiengine jets with multi-piloted crews. But I am ready for a change. This will seem to be an act of heresy to some. But the fact that most pilots do not understand V1 and the incorporation of V-speeds into many head-up displays (HUDs) begs for us to examine the concept of “Vee one” anew.
The informal motto of the 89th Airlift Wing was once "safety, comfort, reliability." (It has since changed slightly.) But that motto was often corrupted. Here is how I would change it and how I would apply it to our civilian flight operations.
If you turn a blind eye towards your passengers when they operate their PEDs, perhaps you should read up on the greater flexibility given to us in the last few years.
Airways Magazine features airliners and really wanted another article about a Boeing 747. So I gave them an article about three.
Like most people my age, I can re-call exactly where I was on Jan. 28, 1986, when I heard the news that the space shuttle Challenger had exploded and broken apart just 73 sec. after liftoff, killing all seven crewmembers. The investigation revealed that NASA had succumed to operational complacency. In the five years I flew my own Challenger (a CL-604) I found myself giving into the operational complacency that seems to be inevitable. Thankfully I've learned how to sidestep that complacency. Here are a few tricks on how to do that.
In January of 2021, Business & Commercial Aviation magazine went "all digital" and asked me to write a series of short checklists for various purposes, this was the first of several. The idea here is to offer a starting point checklkst for pilots flying aircraft designed for a single a pilot.
How many airplanes have been lost due to a rapid depressurization? None, that I know of. How many due to a failure to pressurize? At least five.
Any flight operation that is in danger of courting disaster will more than likely exhibit a few signals that can be read ahead of time and, more importantly, corrected.
No matter how many times you've had to get your airplane ready for a departure in snowy conditions, reviewing a few steps can pay big dividends. While I can't give you a one-size-fits-all checklist, I can offer you a few things to think about when building your own.
A poorly written maintenance write up can not only force a mechanic to guess at what ails the airplane, but can lead him or her down the wrong path. The mechanic can be certain the problem is fixed, leading the pilots to a false level of confidence. This can be disastrous. The lesson here, of course, is to put some thought into those maintenance squawks.
Ever since "stabilized approach criteria" became fashionable I thought the rules were unworkable. My flight department tried to build a better mousetrap.
If you extend your landing gear at glide slope intercept and want to be stable no later than 1,000' AGL, how much time do you have to complete your Before Landing Checklist? Is that enough time? Does that leave enough time for the pilot monitoring to actually monitor? Perhaps we can improve our odds.
The dirty little secret about the duck under is that it works. You can aim for brick one and flare so your wheels actually make the runway. And it almost always works. Almost. The other secret is that your eyes normalize the picture of below glide path. That can bite you.
There appear to be two kinds of pilots in accident reports that involve a stick and rudder problem: those who prefer to handfly and those who do not. Ignoring the automation during a night flight into a busy airport is a recipe for disaster. We owe it to ourselves to keep proficient, and practicing in the airplane is invaluable. But there is a right and wrong time to do that. And, more importantly, there is a right and wrong way to practice.
When is a circling approach not a "circling approach?" More importantly, when can attempting to fly within an instrument approach's stated visibility minimums be a bad idea? The answer has to do with your understanding about what air traffic control means when directing you to circle. And this distinction is about as important as it gets at Teterboro Airport, NJ (KTEB). I elected to divert on May 15, 2017 because I was uncomfortable with having to circle from Runway 6 to Runway 1 with an overshooting wind. Another aircraft crashed later that day attempting to do just that. The non-circle, circling approach is a skill unto itself. Let's learn how to do it properly.
Did you ever hear about the computer that shut itself down because somebody forgot to reboot it for 48 days, and that left 800 aircraft in the skies over California with no air traffic control? How about the computer that turned itself off because the aircraft crossed the International Dateline? Learning a little technophobia can help arm you against these types of misbehaving computers.
Diverting from an oceanic track to an alternate requires a plan; you cannot escape a track by simply pointing the nose to your alternate, especially if you need to descend. Following most oceanic drift down procedures requires you do that to maximize fuel, but risks a midair collision. But if you follow the diversion plan specified in ICAO Doc 4444, you will end up using more fuel than you might have. What to do? There is a solution.
Auto throttles make our lives as pilots easier and that usually means safer. But many of us get to the point we stop thinking about them and when something out of the ordinary happens, things can go badly very quickly. Forturnately, there is an easy solution.
Quick quiz: If you do a good job at putting the airplane on a stable glide path to your aimpoint, and you don't flare, where will the wheels touch down? The answer may surprise you. This magazine issue was all digital. Here is the Code 7700 version of the same article.
I've always thought that most business jet instructors just assume the skills needed in the left seat just happen, we get them by osmosis. I wanted to put into writing many of the techniques.
The most important lesson in an aircraft accident investigation is that you've not gotten to the bottom of things until you can point to someone involved who failed. Spoiler alert: that someone isn't always the pilot. In fact, it rarely is.
We pilots like to tell stories about things that happened to us as a way of (1) entertaining our friends, (2) showing how brave we are, and, perhaps, (3) helping our fellow pilots to avoid a similar situation. Many pilots look upon their past mistakes as “dirty laundry” and the less said about it the better. I think we would all benefit from airing some of that laundry. Learning from your mistake can help others avoid a similar fate. A "there I was story" actually saved my life.
Having witnessed a fair amount of panic in cockpits over the years, I know that dealing with it is something that cannot be trained by simply listening to a lecture, reading an article or practicing in a full-motion simulator. I think the best way to learn is to either experience it or to live it through a well told story. Through the years I've realized three fundamentals for when things go wrong: (1) don’t get busy, (2) don’t get smart and (3) do things for a reason.
We non-fighter pilots can learn a great deal from the graduates of the Navy's Fighter Weapons School ("Top Gun") that will yield great dividends to our lives flying passengers from Point A to Point B. The key is to learn how to debrief every flight to maximize the lessons learned.
This was published in a digital edition of the magazine, including videos. I think it best to present just my website version here. (It is more interactive.)
There is a very good case to be made that having a healthy ego is not only a good thing for a pilot, it is necessary. But what happens when that ego gets out of control?
If you suffer an aircraft upset or some kind of mechanical malfunction that impacts the aircraft's controllability, how confident are you that the aircraft will remain controllable as you configure and slow for landing? Perhaps you should take a page from military aviation and execute a controllability check first. Here are a few hints on how to do that.
For most of my military flying career, the highest form of praise was to say a crewmember has a "We can do that" attitude. I have come to realize that should be rephrased: "should we do that?" This magazine issue was all digital. Here is the Code 7700 version of the same article.
The first rule of aviation is "Fly the Airplane!" You should never forget your basic flight duties, never cede control of the aircraft to someone not in one of your pilot seats, and never let CRM takeover.
When someone from ATC asks you take take down their phone number and asks you to call, it may seem like a directive from the FAA administrator — this can't be good — and in some cases, it is no good at all. But it might be nothing at all. In any case, it isn't time to panic.
Windshear is no longer the mystery it once was; technology helps us to forecast and detect it. But it remains a fundamental truism in aviation: the best plan is to avoid it in the first place.
Landing at the wrong airport is not only embarrassing, it can be dangerous.
Don't you just hate it when old Air Force pilots talk in jargon as if everyone has the same set of experiences? I try very hard to avoid that but it has been pointed out I failed with regards to "brick one."
"Brick One" refers to the very first inch of pavement on a runway. I don't know where that comes from, other than I heard it a lot in the Air Force.
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