|Issue Number 214||
P.O. Box 189, Moffett Field, CA 94035-0189
Memorable Flying "Firsts"
There are a lot of "firsts" in a pilot's career, most of which come and go without much fanfare. In our first "first" report, however, a student pilot's first solo cross-country flight provided more excitement than planned.
As part of pre-flight planning, the student should have verified the destination airport's hours of operation and availability of fuel in the Airport Facility Directory (AFD). The instructor should also have ensured that the student start the long flight earlier in the day.
Students aren't the only ones facing challenges the first time out. A newly-rated instrument pilot met unexpected poor weather while testing the ink on that new "ticket."
The reporter admits, "I made a major mistake" with the altitude bust. Still, some kudos are in order: the reporter stuck with the pre-determined personal minimums and made the decision to divert early, rather than getting into a potentially inextricable situation at the original destination.
Nor are air carrier pilots immune from hazards associated with "first" flights, as this Check Pilot/Captain reports:
Some companies have a policy that prohibits the training of two crew members at the same time. The distractions of providing training can create an excessive workload on instructor crew members. This, in turn, may compromise the safety of the flight.
The pilot of a homebuilt airplane discovered during a taxi test that "crow-hopping" at high speeds can be hazardous to aircraft health:
The reporter attributed the incident to a narrow, crowned runway that amplified cross-winds, and to unfamiliarity with the kitplane's sensitive handling characteristics.
Out of the Loop During Crossing Restrictions
ASRS receives many reports of pilots missing crossing restrictions or failing to meet assigned altitudes at the appropriate time or location. A common factor exists in many of these reports: one pilot is out of the communications loop. The result is a de facto single-pilot operation.
In our first report, the Captain was left to fly "solo" while the non-flying First Officer was attending to another routine matter.
Some pilots try to spread the arrival workload over a longer period of timefor example, by giving the descent announcement earlier in the approach. An added bonus of the earlier announcement is that the cabin attendants have more time to prepare the cabin for arrival.
The cross-monitoring capability of a two-person cockpit is particularly important in the busy approach environment, and even more so when the weather causes route deviations or diversion to an alternate airport. A Captain tells this single-pilot story:
In another weather-related incident, an air carrier crew, struggling to meet a crossing restriction in turbulent air, missed resetting the altimeter at FL180:
Relevant to both of the previous incidents, a technique for maintaining a "two-pilot cockpit" is to have the non-flying pilot continue to monitor the ATC frequency while obtaining ATIS or talking with company. If an ATC communication is heard, other frequencies can be disregarded momentarily. When the necessary ATC and navigation tasks have been accomplished and confirmed by both pilots, the non-flying pilot can return to the non-ATC frequency to continue the announcement or report.
Although the ATIS and company reports are on the list of important arrival duties, the priority of these tasks needs to be balanced against the advantage of having a second pilot actively "in the loop."
A Captain's bottom line sums it up:
Digital ATIS Put On Hold
In 1996, synthesized-voice (digital) ATIS broadcast systems were installed at several major U.S. airports. The new ATIS systems use computerized data entry and a synthesized computer "voice" to broadcast airport information, instead of a human operator.
ASRS began receiving reports about the new ATIS system immediately after its installation. Pilots reported that the system's poor voice quality rendered the ATIS information nearly unintelligible, and that they needed two or even three repetitions of the broadcast for the crew to be able to understand the ATIS information. They also noted that being off the ATC frequency during this period of time caused some crews to miss ATC instructions.
ASRS forwarded these comments to the FAA in the form of a "For Your Information" alerting notice. The FAA also heard from pilots through local ATC facilities and the FAA-Hotline (800-255-1111).
As a result of pilot input through ASRS and the FAA's own reporting channels, the FAA has temporarily suspended additional installations of synthesized-voice ATIS systems until software changes are made to improve the voice quality of the broadcasts.