Although some parts of the
country have seen evidence of a Spring thaw, many areas are still firmly
in winter's grasp. In this first report, a general aviation pilot endured
the winter cold for the duration of a three-hour flight:
heater did not work, so I tagged it "inop" to satisfy the
MEL [Minimum Equipment List], and flew it anyway. The flight was conducted
for the most part in VMC on an IFR flight plan. I wore extra-warm winter
military flight clothing. Temperature in the cockpit at cruising altitude
was about 25°F. Flight time both ways was about 3 hours.
Although the flight was completely uneventful, I now know what it feels
like to be a piece of luggage in an unheated baggage compartment. Even
though I wore special cold-weather flight clothing, I was physically
challenged by this flight. I am certain that my decision-making ability
was affected after being cold-soaked for 3 hours.
Hypothermia, and its resultant
lethargy and sleepiness, can creep up on its victims, particularly when
they are engaged in such a sedentary activity as an airplane flight.
Turnabout Saves the
Winter weather is subject to
rapid change, so sometimes even the most up-to-the-minute forecasts can
turn out to be off the mark.
- When I left
my home airport, the ceiling was 4,200 feet overcast with visibility
10+ miles. XYZ is about 10 miles away. As I got closer to XYZ, a thin
scattered layer at 2,000 feet got thicker and lower. About 4 miles from
XYZ, I saw low clouds over the airport. I immediately turned back for
home. I was able to continue VFR without incident.
I was amazed how quickly the weather deteriorated. I had received a
[computerized weather] briefing only minutes before the flight. I would
not have hesitated to send a student pilot on the same flight with the
information I had about the weather. A student pilot in the same situation
may have pressed on with disastrous results.
The 180 degree turn this instructor-reporter
executed was exactly what every student is taught early in training. Other
pilots who encounter fast-moving weather on short flights should be aware
of the necessity for quick decision-making.
In our next report, an air
carrier First Officer discovered that the aircraft's ACARS computer doesn't
know-and doesn't care- whether it's winter or summer.
- Since we
were weight-restricted because of 2,500-foot field elevation, we requested
a new takeoff weight sheet. I entered airport temperature into ACARS
to get our allowable takeoff weight. I entered 18 for the airport temperature
of 18 degrees C. By not putting the "C" in, the computer figured
the temperature was 18°F. Consequently, we inadvertently took off
700-1,000 lb. overweight.
There is a notice out to make sure degrees F or degrees C is entered,
rather than leaving it out and assuming the computer will default to
what you [want].
The difference between the
temperatures is considerable. An 18 degree C day is a relatively balmy
65 degree F. An 18 degree F day is well below freezing, and sounds even
colder when expressed as -8 degree C. This crew should have paused for
a reality-check when the computer indicated they could take off near maximum
gross weight at that field elevation, on a balmy day.
Captain who wants to get back into the cockpit:
- I left the
cockpit for a minute, and on trying to re-enter, I found the doorknob
to be completely free-wheeling, with or without a key. The door simply
could not be opened from either side. The Flight Engineer attempted
to kick open the door, but to no avail. For almost an hour, until just
prior to landing, several passengers and I were engaged in attempting
to open the door with everything available to us-pocket knives, nail
files, small screwdrivers. The alternative was to have the FE use the
fire axe to chop down the entire door, causing potential panic to many
of our passengers. In light of the heavy experience level of both the
co-pilot and the flight engineer, I elected to leave the door intact.
A safe landing was accomplished with two well-qualified crew members
at the controls.
The reporter doesn't say how
the co-pilot and flight engineer ever escaped from the flight deck.
Quadrasaurus and Other
An air carrier crew, flying
a four-engine, non-glass-cockpit "quadrasaurus," encountered
some difficulty dealing with their vintage navigational equipment:
- Our flight
was originally cleared to expect to cross 25 miles southwest of XYZ
VOR at 8,000 feet. The Controller said he needed us to proceed direct
to ABC intersection and cross that at 8,000 feet, then direct to XYZ
VOR. By the time we had programmed our INS and VORs to display this
position, we had already passed it. We advised ATC that we would be
unable to make the crossing altitude. We were descending at maximum
rate with speed brakes.
The clearance he gave us to go direct ABC was an impossible one for
us to make considering our altitude and proximity to the fix. Also,
we do not have the capacity to go direct to a point unless we enter
it into our INS, which, after an ocean crossing, is not accurate enough
for a terminal environment. A glass cockpit aircraft might have this
immediate capability, but our vintage equipment does not!
Planning ahead for over-land
navigation may include having charts available for quickly dialing in
likely VOR/DME frequencies on multiple VOR receivers.
Our next reporter, an A320
First Officer, points out that a glass cockpit aircraft may not provide
quite the "immediate capability" the previous reporter suggests.
- Our original
clearance was for the ILS runway 25R. [About 30 miles out], we were
told to transition to runway 24R ILS. Once established therewe were
told to transition to 24L for landing.
In a Jurassic Jet, this is normal stuff-kind of-but in a glass aircraft,
this requires some head-down time on final approach to swap and input
displays, and assign new runways to the flight computers. Three changes
in 31 miles shouldn't happen in any aircraft, much less a glass one.
My company's standard operating procedures require doing an approach
check each time a new approach/runway is assigned. Again, more head-down
time in a busy environment with plenty of radio calls going on.
Our ASRS analysts suggest additional
inflight preparation for more than one arrival route. For example, pilots
might load "Route 2" with an alternate approach or airport,
so that the information is readily accessible if needed due to a runway
change or diversion to an alternate airport.
More from ASRS on the
A little over a year ago, we
announced the activation of the ASRS Internet site. Since then, the ASRS
pages have had over 50,000 "hits." We have also made a number
of changes and additions. Our new and improved address, which is no longer
Our Internet site provides
electronic products and services to the aviation community, including:
A brief overview of the ASRS program, including program purposes, reporter
immunity and confidentiality, report processing, the ASRS database,
and ASRS program outputs.
ASRS Database. How
to request database information from the ASRS, or purchase the ASRS
database CD-ROM from Aviation Research Group/U.S., Inc.
Reporting Forms. Reporting
forms for pilots, controllers, cabin attendants, and maintenance personnel.
These forms are in an Adobe Acrobat format, so you will need to download
a free copy of Acrobat from Adobe, then the reporting form(s) of your
choice. Then print, fill out, and mail the completed form to us.
Immunity Policy. A
look at FAA immunity policies as they apply to ASRS incident reports,
including the current Advisory Circular 00-46C (soon to be replaced
by 00-47D), Federal Aviation Regulation 91.25, and Facility Operations
and Administration Handbook (7210.3M), paragraph 2-2-9.
Recent issues of CALLBACK and Directline aviation safety publications
can now be accessed directly in "html" formats.
Operational Issues Bulletins.
This new feature provides a topical review of important issues in the
aviation community. The first Bulletin examines Confusion in Using Pre-Departure
Our next planned addition to
the ASRS Internet site will be selected recent ASRS research papers, covering
a wide range of aviation safety subjects, available in both "html"
and Adobe Acrobat versions.
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lower than terrain near a South American airport
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1997 Report Intake