As the summer flying season
gets into full swing,we respond to
an impassionedplea from a pilot who seeks nothing more than some basic
communication at a local uncontrolled airport.
- The wind
was 120 degrees upon arrival at ABC, and I announced entering a right
downwind for runway 16, ABC. Then I heard another aircraft announcing
he was entering a left downwind for runway 34, touch and go...no airport
was stated. I announced my turns to base and then final, runway 16,
ABC. On final, I noticed lights descending towards runway 34. I banked
to the east. The other aircraft banked west.
Please publish the need for everyone to broadcast "blind"
at uncontrolled airports their entries into downwind, base and final;
and to preface and end their transmissions with the name of the airport.
Speaking of speaking up, summer
is also the time when numerous fire fighting aircraft are on the airwaves,
trying to coordinate patrols, water and retardant drops, and deployment
of equipment and personnel. Monitoring of nearby UNICOM frequencies by
local pilots provides a margin of safety for the fire fighters, who are
engaged in an already hazardous enough occupation. A report to ASRS illustrates:
- Our aircraft
were working a small forest fire. I was concerned when I saw a sight-seer
approach and begin circling right in with the two working aircraft,
at the same altitude and within 100 feet at times. Several attempts
were made to get him to leave the immediate area, including use of several
radio frequencies, and a siren and loudspeaker. Nothing worked! It is
recommended that non-working aircraft remain at least 2000 feet above
the highest fire fighting aircraft. A mid-air is not a satisfactory
way to end a sight-seeing trip.
Nor a satisfactory way to end
a fire fighting mission! Remember, too, that temporary flight restrictions
(FAR 91.137) are often set up around many forest fires. Check NOTAMs and
get good briefings before flying into these areas.
"In the Blind"-
About the only thing that went
right for this military pilot on a civilian pleasure flight was his continuing
to broadcast in the blind, in an effort to make everyone aware of his
- I took off
from [a military airport] for a local flight. I met with a friend, and
then decided to call the base...to let the Staff Duty NCO know that
I needed the runway lights on. [During the flight back to the base],
I couldn't get anyone on the radio. I constantly broadcasted in the
blind. I decided to shoot the ILS approach, because when I identified
the airport, the runway lights were not on. While I was circling to
orient myself, I drifted into the nearby Class B airspace. We train
making approaches and landings with and without night vision goggles.
Therefore I was comfortable with landing at an unlit runway. After I
touched down, I noticed the red light coming from the Tower. I thought
they had a disabled aircraft following me, because the fire trucks and
security patrol cars were racing toward the runway. It never crossed
my mind that it was because of me.
As it happened, the pilot did
have a radio failure. From the Tower's point of view, however, this pilot
was an intruder: no radio contact, conducting an IFR approach without
a clearance, landing at night without runway lights. On top of all that,
the base aero club had been searching for him because he had failed to
close his outbound flight plan.
Visual perceptions account
for about 70 percent of the information most people absorb, and are the
basis for simulator training for pilots. When reality doesn't quite jibe
with those perceptions...well, the Captain of a widebody cargo air craft
explains what can happen:
20 minutes late. Pushback ended well to the left of taxiway centerline.
I taxied about 100 feet before realizing how far off the taxiway centerline
I was and how at risk I was of contacting taxiway lights. Stopped aircraft,
summoned maintenance, and requested visual inspection of the aircraft,
tires, and taxiway lights. Aircraft was undamaged, but a taxiway light
was damaged...apparently not hit by us. We proceeded to destination
Contributing factors: failure to use taxi lights out of courtesy to
other aircraft; positioning of aircraft after pushback; and confusion
about position on taxiway, exacerbated by fatigue (middle of the night)
and recent experience in simulator earlier the same day. A LOFT training
scenario involved taxiing under nearly identical circumstances using
taxiway centerline lighting which exists in the simulator for that taxiway
at that airport, but not in reality.
The Whole Crew, and Nothing
But The Crew
The concept once known as Cockpit
Resource Management is now referred to as Crew Resource Management (CRM),
with an emphasis on the ideas that everyone involved with the aircraft
is part of the team, and no one is a mere ob server. Still, CRM skills
sometimes get overlooked. This Part 135 commuter Captain on a round-robin
night flight ex perienced two failures of CRM practices during one flight.
- I have been
extremely pleased with the CRM training I have received. I have tried
to incorporate such lessons into my briefings with my crew and consider
myself a very approachable Captain. Even so, I experienced a total breakdown
of communication...Twice in one night my crew withheld information I
needed to do my job, for no good reason.
During a low visibility approach, my First Officer apparently became
disoriented after breaking out of the clouds and assuming visual control
of the aircraft for landing. However, he never said a word about it
until after we had made a rather firm landing. He stayed quiet and took
a chance that could have resulted in much worse conclusions than a hard
After shutting down, I inspected the exterior of the airplane...everything
OK. The passengers were boarded, and we returned to XYZ without further
When the flight attendant got off the airplane, she said she was suffering
from a headache because she had hit her head against the bulkhead during
the [previous hard] landing. She had said nothing then because she was
in a hurry to get home.
In the next report, the usual CRM efforts of the flight and cabin crews
were complicated by the Passenger Service Agent (PSA) at the gate, as
well as the behind-the-scenes team members (dispatch and load control).
Add an electronic information display, and confusion--with lack of CRM--reigns:
- A final
load and weight of 106,300 lbs was sent to the aircraft via ACARS prior
to push. I questioned this because by my math we should have weighed
107,800 lbs. Just prior to push...107,300 lbs appeared, which was closer
to what I expected. The PSA re-opened the door...and put on [four more
passengers]. Because of opening the door, all previous data dumped from
the ACARS. After a call to dispatch for a takeoff alternate due to deteriorating
weather, a call was made to load control to ask for a new weight for
takeoff. They said it appeared we were over weight [max. takeoff weight=108,000
lbs.], but moments later, we received a new weight of 107,600 lbs.
Just after lift-off, we received two ACARS messages that we were over
weight, and should return to the gate.
A three-person crew, inbound
on an ILS, found themselves having a little trouble getting it all together
for the final approach. The First Officer overshot the localizer, then
discovered that the Captain had dialed in the wrong ILS frequency. All
of this led to two offers by ATC to execute a go-around. The First Officer
and Second Officer agreed, but the Captain declined, insisting that the
approach could be salvaged. Finally, someone made a decision, as the Second
- The First
Officer said he was going around, and called for climb power. He did
not remove his hand from the throttles, nor did he push the throttles
to a climb power setting. I then pushed the throttles full forward with
the First Officer's hand still on them, and called for gear up. The
Captain told ATC we were going around...The pilots flying were late
and indecisive in initiating a go-around. CRM principles worked in this
case (eventually!), but could have worked even better in all these reports
if the whole crew had accepted the principles from the start.
SOP or SOL?
SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures)
can be a useful form of communication among crew members, especially when
radio contact is not available. Deviation from SOPs by anyone can leave
a pilot-in-command SOL (Sure Outta Luck). An ASRS report describes an
incident that led to an adrenalin rush for all concerned.
- [This airport]
has a light system for parking. The red light coming on is the signal
to stop the aircraft. When the light goes off our company procedures
specify that...the chocks are in. The light is turned off by a ramp
agent who then follows that action with hand signals indicating the
chocks are in. While waiting for the light to go out...I inadvertently
released the brakes (the parking brake was not set). Because the ramp
is not level, the airplane began to slowly roll backwards. This movement
was not apparent to me or the First Officer. Contributing to our lack
of recognition [was] the movement of the jetway,...[which] gives the
sensation of [the airplane] moving; this optical illusion is well-known
and routinely disregarded, so it took several seconds before I realized
we were moving and reapplied the brakes.
While it is obvious my mental lapse is not excusable, there are several
considerations...Ramp workers have or display different levels of compliance
with the parking procedure described above. The effect of these differences
is the tendency to not pay attention to the very things that we should.
The reporter neglects to mention
that the company SOP quite probably lists the flight crew's first priority
as setting the parking brake!
ASRS Recently Issued Alerts
- An autopilot altitude hold
failure on a Learjet 60
- False ILS glideslope captures
at Brussels and Toronto
- Alleged design flaw in an
EMB-120 hydraulic access door
- A reported airborne conflict
with a U.S. Customs aircraft
- Multiple ram air scoop icing
incidents involving the MD-80
April 1995 Report Intake
- Air Carrier Pilots--1643
- General Aviation Pilots--701