All posts tagged 'Airlines'

5 More Things ATC Wants You to Know

2 weeks ago we discussed the topic of tips from ATC. After surveying some air traffic controllers, they provided advice for talking on the radios and things they really dislike that pilots do.

Well, the feedback on this was so good I mentioned doing part two. So here it is! 


1) Emergency

If you're ever in distress for any reason, tell your controller. They can't help if they don't know what's going on. Maybe you have an electrical issue and are having to pop some circuit breakers before you get to the next assigned task or it's as drastic as losing an engine. But whatever the reason, even if it's not yet a full-blown emergency and you need some assistance from ATC, don't be afraid to just let them know.


2) Pop Up IFR

If you need a pop-up IFR, also sometimes referred to as a local IFR request, just ask for it. Some pilots will advise never to do that because it adds extra workload to controllers having to take that information from you, put it in the system then give you clearance. Sure, it does take a little extra time to do that work, but if you think it'll jeopardize safety, then do it. ATC would rather take the time to give you that clearance than you try and stay VFR and get into trouble. It truly only takes a few extra steps and if they aren't busy it isn't that big of a deal. Just have required information ready to read off such as name, phone number, the color of your aircraft, souls on board, fuel remaining, etc.

3) Request on Check In

When you're en-route and have a switch off between frequencies, most pilots' first instinct is to check in and advise of any requests they want then and there. "Center N224JW flight level 320 requesting direct destination."

Believe it or not, in most cases on that first initial check in with the new frequency, you're likely still in the last sector's airspace. This means for your new controller, most requests have to be called in and coordinated before authorizing it. So if you check in, it's busy, and you want to help ATC out, wait a minute or two before calling back if the request isn't urgent and you're more likely to get it off the bat.

4) Approach Check In

Another check in tip! When you're checking in with approach, try and give them all the required information you know they'll ask for so they don't have to play 20 questions. "Approach, N10JM 17,000 descending via the GESSNER4 arrival, information foxtrot for ILS 13R." 

Here they don't need to ask if you've gotten the ATIS and they know what approach you're wanting so they can be ready for it. 

5) Expedite

If a controller asks you to expedite through an altitude and report your current level, they actually needed that like 5 seconds ago. Don't delay on the expedite or reading it back to them. Seems simple but the issue occurs pretty commonly and this is where both teams need to work together.

This concludes just about all of the main talking points that were sent in. If you have any questions for ATC, things you as a controller would like to add, or questions/comments in general, comment below or send it in to us! 


How Safe is Flying?

There is an age-old question asked to pilots and professionals in the Aviation industry by concerned passengers and family members time and time again. The question, "Is aviation REALLY safe?" is asked more frequently than ever now that the media spends weeks analyzing every single detail of any plane crash. The simple answer is yes; flying is statistically a very safe thing to do. However, I believe that a fear of flying stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of how the airline industry works. I’m sure everyone has heard the statistics, but I want to point out some facts about the industry that lead to logical reasons why aviation is the safest form of travel.

You can describe flying in a way that sends chills down anyone’s spine. It is where you hurdle yourself through the air in an aluminum box, at altitudes higher than the tallest mountains on earth, at speeds in excess of 500 MPH. For a large majority of people, this is all that they can focus on when they think about flying. There is a lot more to it than that, because the airline industry is an extremely complex and innovative system that is entirely designed around safety.

The statistics are everywhere. Evidently your chances of being killed on a single airline flight are a measly 1 in 19.8 million. The Bureau of Aircraft Accident Archives has recorded a steady decline in crashes over the last several years. Worried about the aircraft mysteriously disappearing? The average over the past 40 years has been one disappearance per year. Add this to the fact that roughly 100,000 aircraft take off per day, and you have an extremely low probability.

Despite all the statistical evidence, some people still experience fear and anxiety over the thought of flying. Everybody loves lists, so I want to list some of the most factual and logical reasons that airline flying is extremely safe.

1. Aviation is the most regulated and scrutinized means of travel. There is an old saying, "The FAA: We are not happy until you aren’t." The regulations and rules that airline operators and pilots must follow seem to never end. They pertain to types of equipment onboard, crew training, fuel reserves, weight and balance of the aircraft, and hundreds of other things. If it pertains to the safe operation of the aircraft, the FAA has a regulation about it.

2. Security is tight. After 9/11, the airline industry upped their security measures as much as possible. Passengers go through extensive searching and monitoring, doors to aircraft cockpits are locked. Try to look at the random frisking and excruciatingly long TSA lines as a positive thing – they are just a side effect of excessive security measures to keep you safe.

3. Pilots go through rigorous training. As an aspiring airline pilot, I have seen firsthand just how much training pilots have to go through. When you first earn your Commercial license, you are far from piloting in the airlines. Pilots have to immediately begin building hundreds more hours, gaining experience, and even when they reach the airlines they act as copilot for several years. Having two individuals with years of extensive training at the controls should ease your worries a little.

4. Pilots also go through rigorous examinations. In order to maintain a First Class Medical certificate, a pilot must be in top physical and emotional shape. There is an ever-increasing list of medications and physical ailments that will keep them out of the cockpit. This is a sore subject for many, but a reasonable point as to why airlines are safe.

5. Aircraft are expensive. The typical commercial airliner can cost a company upwards of $100 million. If you paid $100 million for a company asset, would you be uptight about the way it was handled and operated? A crash can completely bankrupt a smaller airline, so it is also in the best interest of the number crunchers that flights do not go down.

6. Aviation is constantly evolving. Since that fateful first flight by the Wright brothers, aviation has been growing and advancing at a breakneck pace. Every year new innovations are made that help make operations smoother and safer. Ask any pilot about NexGen and you will see firsthand just how quickly new equipment and systems are being implemented.

I hope that these points will help you reconsider any remaining fear or anxiety you feel towards flying. What safety fact do you find most comforting? Let me know in the comments below!

New FAA Copilot Rule is Now in Effect

David W. Thornton

A new Federal Aviation Administrationrule that requires copilots on U.S. airlines to have additional training and flight experience is now in effect. The final rule, required by the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010, was published in the Federal Register on July 15, 2013.

Previously, first officers on scheduled airline flights were only required to hold a commercial pilot license. The commercial license requires a total of 250 hours flight time. Under the new rule, airline first officers are required to hold an airline transport pilot license. The ATP requires 1,500 hours of flight time. Pilots must be at least 23 years old to earn an ATP.

For more information on this rule, see David Thornton’s article here

Citation X Captain Pilots For World-Renowned Fractional Operator

   On warm and sunny days here in Louisville, Kentucky, I have made a habit of going out to the field that lies due south of my father’s house. There in the field I feel at home; I lie down in the cool, soft grass, look up at the endless sky as I ponder my life. High above this planet where the vapor turns to gas, there is no such thing as hurt, there is no such thing as pain; there is no war and there is no evil. Up there, life is peaceful, beautiful and every shade of blue. It fascinates me to imagine how simple life could be; all we have to do is take the time to stop and see the world around us. Life has a funny way of twisting and turning in every direction except the one we are expecting; and once we lose our way, we are apt to miss out on something really great. There are always going to be reasons why we never did those things we wanted most, but that is so silly. Live your life, do everything you ever dreamed of doing and don’t look back.

   This time, my story is about a boy who knew from a very young age that he wanted to be a pilot. So much so that he would lie awake at night, letting his imagination carry him away as he slipped into fantasies of flight. The year was 1970, young Jeffrey Newcomb was twelve years of age and constantly on the lookout for anything aviation. Jeff would spend days with his nose in a flying magazine, any that he could find. Specifically, Jeff he recalls reading Air Progress, Private Pilot, Plane and Pilot and Flying. Jeff wasn’t quite sure why this dream had found him, be it spiritual or for the simplicity of freedom; but he supposed it didn’t matter anyway. What mattered was that he knew he was going to be a pilot someday. Unfortunately, bad news was lurking in the shadows for your young Jeff. One night over a family dinner, Jeffrey attempted to first express his passion for aviation to his parents. Needless to say, times were different then and aviation was less than safe according to Jeff’s mother and father. Jeff’s father had served time in the NAVY and although he had not piloted himself, he had a horrible fear of flight and refused to see his son put himself in such “danger.” On top of that, it has been said that the 70s and early 80s were NOT the best time to become a career pilot simply due to the large number of military pilots coming out of the Vietnam war. Ultimately, Jeff’s father had different ideas for his son and promptly began pushing him towards a career in business, sales and marketing.

   When the time came for Jeff to go away for college, he headed off to the University of New Hampshire in order to complete his undergrad degree. In 1979 Jeff graduated from UNH with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration as his father had suggested. Jeff continued forward with in his education and almost immediately ventured off to Antioch New England Graduate School located in Keene, New Hampshire, where he received his master’s degree in counseling Psychology. Still unsure as to what profession he may finally end up pursuing, Jeff went off to George Mason University located in Fairfax, Virginia where he completed a second master’s degree in Clinical Psychology.

   In 1987, Jeff went to work part time with an old country medical doctor out of a private office. For the next five years the medical doctor and Jeff worked together helping each other, help others. Once a week, Jeff would take over this medical office in order to meet with his clients for their routine therapy sessions. Jeffery enjoyed helping people in any way that he could, yet, he began to notice a pattern in his work. Although Jeff met with many different types of patients over the years, he found that he primarily spoke with married couples in couple’s type therapy. Some rekindled their love while others ended harshly in divorce and misfortune. Although these relationships and occurrences all took vital importance in Jeff’s life, none affected him quite as much as the divorce of his own parents. In 1992 Jeff’s parents filed for a divorce and just like that Jeff’s life had changed. He no longer desired a career in psychology; Jeff was ready to do just exactly what his parents had always advised him not to do. Needless to say, in January of 1993, when Jeff was thirty-five years old he began taking flight lessons. Again, people in Jeff’s life discouraged him from aviation. They told him that he was too old, the lessons would cost too much money, he would never be able to make a career out of flying without military background, etc.

Jeff wasn’t listening.

   Luckily, Jeffrey had friends in the business. His old pal Lee and colleague Greg owned and ran a small FBO named Sky Bright out of Laconia, New Hampshire. There in Laconia, Jeffrey Newcomb learned to fly despite every negative thing anyone had ever told him. It took Jeff roughly one year to complete all necessary pilot training and in 1993, he became certified to instruct and began teaching student pilots at Sky Bright. At this point in Jeffrey’s career he needed to begin building his time in multi-engine aircraft so that he could begin a new job as a charter pilot and work his way up in business. Some twenty thousand dollars later, Jeff was successfully checked out to fly the Beechcraft Baron as well as the Cessna 310 and in no time at all he was began his new career as a charter pilot flying the Baron for Sky Bright.

   In the spring of 1995, Jeff jumped on board a new flying opportunity and was off to Orlando, Florida in order to pursue an offer to fly for Comair Airlines. At Comair, Jeffrey flew as first officer for several years before he was transitioned north to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he became the captain on the Brasilia for one year. During these five years Jeff also flew the Canadair Regional Jet as well as the Metroliner. Newcomb absolutely loved this job and intended to stay…until a massive strike broke out in 2001. Just in the nick of time one of the largest international, fractional operator/time shares opened their door in search of a captain to fly their Cessna Citation X aircraft. Jeffrey Newcomb calls it “a spiritual thing” that he was lucky enough to be granted with such an incredible opportunity. In no time at all the cards played out and he was dealt a fantastic hand. Suddenly Jeffrey was on board and working his dream career with only 4500 hours of flight time.

   Today, twelve years later, Jeffrey has 4600+ hours in the Citation X aircraft, he has maintained his career with the same time share company and he says he could not be more thrilled! Jeffery will tell anyone he meets that he absolutely loves serving people; he enjoys making things happen and in turn, seeing people smile. “Airline flying was easy compared to private! However, flying corporate and fractional are so much more rewarding because you (as their pilot)get the opportunity to actually work one on one with your guests” Jeffrey states. “The greatest satisfaction is providing service directly to the people that you fly.” Also, Jeff thoroughly enjoys the variety of his trips. During an average week, Jeff typically flies to several different places. On any given day he may be flying a family to fabulous Bermuda for vacation, then turn around and spend the night in Aspen, Colorado that very same evening. With his current company, Jeff has also become very accustom to transcontinental flights where he may begin a trip in Teterboro, New Jersey, have dinner off the coast of southern California and be prepared for takeoff to Lakeland, Florida first thing the very next morning!

   The moral of this story is to not ever give up trying, on the things you want most out of life. Thirteen year old Jeffrey Newcomb sat at his family’s dinner table and thought very sincerely that all was lost. He thought his dreams of one day becoming a pilot were no more and he certainly would be sentenced to live a life on the ground. I’m here today folks, to tell you the good news of Jeff’s very real success story. On this very day, Jeff is a pilot working for a very successful company and living a very successful life. Against all odds, Jeffrey Newcomb did it. Currently, Jeff is living back home in small town New Hampshire with his adoring wife, Adriana and any spare time that he finds, he designates to students pilots. Jeff is excited to be back and instructing at Sky Bight, where he taught twenty years ago. Flying still excites Jeff to the nth degree. He feels excited to push the starter button on the engine of his Citation X and he still gets butterflies as he prepares for takeoff. Jeff enjoys watching the sun rise above the clouds and he states that he has the best office in the whole world; seeing the stars at night and ground below thrills him now more than ever and he wouldn’t trade for a thing.

Jim and Matt

Note from the Author: Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by and read my article! I cannot even begin to describe how much I’ve learned in just a few short months since I started with this series. You are all such inspiring aviators and pilots, so thanks for reaching out to me with your comments and emails. I hope you enjoyed this article, and keep up the awesome thoughts, comments and on-blog conversations! -As always, please feel free to message me directly with your thoughts at - [email protected]. I’d love to hear from you!

Plastic Airplanes and the Balance of Payments

I rarely take much interest in what is going on in the airline industry, as I view airline travel as one of life’s necessary evils (private aviation rules as far as I am concerned, I only wish that I could personally afford it.) The massive people carriers of today are truly wondrous works of engineering-scale; all of them are designed to not require hangarage when they are rarely parked for more than a brief stop-over at a gate, while the weights that they are designed to carry, day-in-day-out for usually up to 80,000 to 90,000 hours over the duration of their service life is frankly stupendous. An issue from that side of the aviation industry that I am not in-tune with, but that now has me flustered under the collar at the moment, is the airline industry’s new Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

The Dreamliner is supposed to be all of these things: an engineering marvel, an economic game-changer, the most efficient airliner-ever, the fastest-selling airliner, etc, etc. However it is very late into entering into service with the launch airline customers; it leaks fuel, it appears to catch fire; and is it now also grounded until which time in the future that the FAA deems it safe to go back to service.

For me, I have always believed that Boeing and Safety were both synonymous with each other. Even though the company carries the name of a man from the late nineteenth century, I have always felt that this name both labels and epitomises what is the best and safest airline-size aircraft, ever in existence. Now however, there is the possibility that I might be proved wrong in this belief.

To maintain the integrity of producing a truly revolutionary aircraft, Boeing engineers decided that the application of Japanese built Lithium Cobalt Oxide battery technology was to be an advantage for them. Some feel that this type of battery has still yet to be perfected. I remember the stories from the old-timers who remembered when Nickel-Cadmium (Ni-Cad) batteries first became the #1 choice for business jet and turbo-prop aircraft. Thermal runaway events with Ni-Cads were quite common in the early biz-jets. Stories abound of pilots landing and running to the outside rear compartment of a Lear or Falcon to try and remove offending runaway battery before it melted itself apart and through the compartment floor. I don’t recall ever hearing that an aircraft was lost because it’s battery melted away. Therefore battery fires are not, in my mind the biggest safety issue for me to have sufficient reason to refuse to board a Boeing, or in-fact any other aircraft.

What bothers me is the propensity with which the Dreamliner appears to leak fuel. I do not have any inside information about the faulty or incorrectly installed Eaton fuel connectors and valves, but as an outsider I do have to wonder if the fuel plumbing system has leaks because of the flexibility of the carbon fibre structure, moving differently during flight, than which good-old fashioned aluminium does? I always joke that the only time that a Merlin or an older Hawker does not leak fuel is when the aircraft is empty; probably because it all leaked out! Having an aircraft of this size, technology, and age, i.e. cutting-edge designs that are pushing the boundaries of aircraft manufacture beyond what we are used to, and then leaking like an old Hawker usually does, is really not acceptable in my mind.

The concept of spiral wound or vacuum formed carbon fibre manufacturing has long been a holy grail that aircraft manufacturers have pushed for their engineering departments to tackle head-on. The rewards are certainly beacon of light to accountants and engineers alike. Unfortunately, apart from the small successes found by several manufacturers where certain main structural components of an aircraft have had aluminium replaced with carbon fibre, for example the horizontal stabilizer and flight controls on all new Dassault Falcon aircraft, the manufacture of an entire aircraft from this material is obvious to an outsider like me, as being much too risky for any manufacturer that is foolhardy enough to bank their entire future on. Examples of failed or discontinued aircraft are beginning to make a lengthy tome in aviation history:

LearFan, Starship, Visionair Vantage, Adam 700, Grob Spn, Spectrum Freedom and Independence, the Diamond Jet, Premier, and Hawker 4000.

There are others that are not mentioned on my list however memory fails me in their recollection...maybe you can add some for me in the comments section below?

The fact is that the elimination of aluminium, rivets, and others fasteners, along with the massive reduction in man-hours to assemble an aluminium aircraft structure, appears to add-up to an incredibly attractive cost saving for a manufacturer; the raw material cost and processes required to make an equivalent structure from carbon fibre, appear to be extremely costly, and might even exceed the cost of a conventionally made metal aircraft.

The Dreamliner is set to make a significant entry into the aviation history books. I am worried though that the Dreamliner might write its’ own history book entry negatively instead. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that Boeing aircraft - from the 707 on-up are some of the safest and best design aircraft ever to grace the skies. I can’t say that I feel entirely safe when I ride an Airbus, especially in heavy-weather. With this said, I shall continue my attitude of scepticism regarding all-plastic airplanes, until I see the Dreamliner still plying the commercial jet routes of the world well past 2033.

My fear of the possible misplaced allure of plastic that has beckoned to the engineers and management at Boeing, also leads me to start wondering about how the balance of payments in this country’s economy will hold up if Boeing’s bet on plastic turns out very badly wrong?

According to Fortune Magazine’s “Fortune 500” list, Boeing is ranked at #39; with Exxon-Mobile and Walmart taking spots #1 & #2 respectively. The $1.48 Trillion U.S. Dollars export of tangible goods includes $87.5 Billion, or 6% of all ‘balance of payments’ contribution that the manufacture and export of ‘aircraft’ and ‘spacecraft’ contribute to our economy. The Dreamliner sells in two versions: the 787-8 for $206.8 Million U.S.D., and the 787-9 for $243.6 Million U.S.D. According to recent Boeing figures, 850 Dreamliners have been sold since it was first brought to market. By my reckoning that adds up to $195.5 Billion U.S. Dollars, which is more than twice the current annual sales contribution derived from the export of aircraft today. What a catastrophe it would be, if the Dreamliners’ name is added to the list of failed plastic birds?

Fast on the heels of the Dreamliner, is the Arbus A350, which too is a carbon-fibre design. The battle that is slowly unfolding before our eyes is possibly a little too exciting for my feeble post-GFC stomach to not cramp-up.

What are your thoughts?

Also, again can you remember any other plastic aircraft that should be added to the list of failures?
  • LearFan
  • Starship
  • Visionair Vantage
  • Adam A700
  • Grob Spn
  • Spectrum Freedom and Independence
  • Diamond Jet
  • Premier
  • Hawker 4000

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