All posts tagged 'Southwest Airlines'

Should I Become a Pilot?

Well, the very short answer is yes. Yes 1,000 times.

Becoming a pilot is the most fun, insightful journey and deciding to extend that to making it a career makes that the journey of a lifetime (see what I did there ;) ).

But the harsh truth is not everyone is meant to be a pilot. Flight training isn't easy and can become very time consuming. Those who make it through have to be dedicated, motivated and self-disciplined. Even then, someone can have all the dedication it takes and just not have the skills needed to safely fly an aircraft. These skills are partly developed over time and partly come from the abilities you carry as a person. Let's talk about them:

1. Can you multi task?

Being a safe pilot means you have to be able to handle multiple things at once. Takeoff is a perfect example, especially on an IFR flight when you're single-pilot. Power settings are in, gear comes up, you're having to monitor all the engine instruments have good readings, ATC comes in with new instructions that you have to repeat back and then comply with, and throughout all this you're still having to fly the plane and be ready for any emergency. Imagine doing this in a jet...all that happens in about less than 20 seconds. 

Even as a VFR only pilot in a small fixed-gear plane it's still busy. During the takeoff you're ready to abort it or do an emergency landing at any time, respond back to ATC and comply, then don't forget after takeoff checklists. This sounds simple but in the air it can be a lot to handle. I find students struggle the most with remembering their after takeoff checklist and on a cross country keeping up with their checkpoints as soon as we're off the ground. It's like as soon as you rotate, everything is forgotten and you get tunnel vision.

2. Can you work under pressure?

With everything I just described on multi tasking, this doesn't come without a drop of sweat or two. As you're keeping up with all of your tasks you can feel the pressure sitting on your shoulders to get everything done and keep flying the plane safely. During flight training, you'll feel the pressure of your instructor sitting next to you watching everything you do and being ready to point out the first mistake you make (it's literally our job, that's how you learn!). You can have an instructor who points them out nicely, or not so nice one.....but at some point you have to learn to be able to do it all yourself. The same pressure is there when you carry passengers. They may not know as much of what's going on as your instructor did, but sometimes you can still feel them watching and listening to everything you do. They don't know how to fly, so they're relying on you to get them somewhere safely!

Now imagine if an emergency occurs, the pressure is REALLY on there. This isn't being said to scare you, but a good pilot always expects the unexpected and handles it without panic. They go through their checklists with ease, keep everyone onboard calm and then neutralize the situation as much as possible in order to land safely. Remember that story about Captain Tammie Jo Shults who lost an engine on a Southwest flight? Here is the article link of her story and an attached audio link. Listen to how calm her voice is. If she didn't say there was an emergency, you would've never guessed what had been going on. 

3. Are you motivated and self-disciplined? 

This one is most important when it comes to flight training. I see time and time again students who come in and say "I want to be a pilot" and then 6 months later they have like 2 flight lessons under their belt. Let's be honest, flight lessons aren't cheap. If you're going to pay out of pocket try and save up a lot first and apply for as many scholarships as possible, this way you don't have to slow down training and only be able to pay for one lesson at a time. Second is when you have the finances available, schedule flight lessons for at least several times a week and show up to each one prepared! It will do you no good to rarely fly (like once a month for example) and to never study. Don't show up to each lesson and depend on your instructor to teach you everything. Teach yourself as much as you can at home and let them fill in the gaps. This helps you progress much faster and also save money if finances are tight. 

Being able to multi task, work under pressure, be motivated and be self-disciplined are some of the most important factors that create a good pilot. Of course there's a few others that could fall into desired aspects, but without these you'll never "lift off the ground."

Think you meet these though and want to become a pilot? Go for it and don't let anything stop you. If you need some help paying for lessons go to Globalair.com/scholarships/ and apply for ours! Applications accepted until August 15th this year. 

Have anymore questions about if being a pilot is right for you? Maybe some tips to add? Comment below! 

Why You Could Land at the Wrong Airport, Too: Confirmation Bias in Pilots


Photo © Scott Scheiffer/Twitter

As humans, we tend to see what we want to see and believe what we want to believe. It's a psychological impediment known as confirmation bias, and it leads us to subconsciously seek information that affirms our beliefs and neglect information that might disprove the decisions we've already made.

We're all guilty of it, whether we know it or not. In fact, you're probably reading this right now with a hint of confirmation bias, seeking out the words and sentences on the page that confirm the thoughts or opinions you may already have.

It might sound like a lot of psychological babble, but it's a huge problem for pilots. Pilots trust in automation even when it's wrong because time after time, it works perfectly. Pilots land at the wrong airport even when the visual cues are there to tell them they're in the wrong place because they believe they're in the right place and look for indications that support that belief.

On two different occasions recently, aircraft have mistakenly landed at the wrong airport. Additionally, many aircraft accidents and incidents can be partially attributed to confirmation bias. Here are a few examples:

  • In 1989, a Boeing 737 operated by British Midland Airways crashed after encountering engine problems Both pilots incorrectly identified the engine that was malfunctioning and shut down the incorrect engine. When the perfectly good engine was shut down, the vibration lessened, confirming the pilot's belief that they chose the correct engine to shut down. The pilots then chose to ignore various other indications regarding the affected engine, like the engine instrument system (EIS). Confirmation bias was studied as a result of this accident.

  • In 2006, a CRJ-100 operating as Comair Flight 5191 crashed during takeoff from the wrong runway at Bluegrass Airport in Kentucky. Though there were many contributing factors in this accident, confirmation bias was listed in the NTSB findings.
  • In November 2013, a Boeing 747 Dreamlifter landed at Jabara airport, a small uncontrolled field in Wichita, instead of their intended destination, McConnell Air Force Base.

  • In January 2014, a Southwest Airlines crew landed at the wrong airport with a Boeing 737 full of passengers. The runway length at M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport, where the 737 landed, is just over 3,700 feet and the Boeing 737 stopped with just a few hundred feet to spare.

    The investigations for these incidents of airplanes landing at the wrong airport are incomplete, and I'm no investigator, but it's very possible that confirmation bias played a role in both of these incidents, causing the pilots to see and believe that they were on approach for the right airport while ignoring important visual cues such as runway lights, heading and instrument indications, which could have given them a reality check.

Preventing Confirmation Bias:
It's easy to fall into the confirmation bias trap, and general aviation pilots are not immune. In fact, confirmation bias is especially dangerous for GA pilots, who often fly by themselves. And we don't know when we're doing it, so it's a difficult problem to fix.

The FAA recommends that pilots make a conscious, unbiased effort to make decisions and remain cognizant of how reality might differ from our perception. A second person in the cockpit can help with this since two minds are better than one, but the accidents and incidents mentioned above tell us that confirmation bias can affect us, even with two or three people in the cockpit.

Another method for avoiding confirmation bias involves constantly looking for reasons to disprove your beliefs or decisions. If you see more reasons faulting the decision than supporting it, it's time to reevaluate.

While there is no absolute solution for confirmation bias, being aware of it is a step in the right direction. Knowing it exists might just help you evaluate - or think twice about - your decision making process.

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