Airports - Page 6 Aviation Articles

The Race is On – Where Do You Play the Ponies?

Image Courtesy Oaklawn Racing and Gaming

Now that Spring has officially sprung, everyone that has a set of wings that they’re pulling out of their T-hangers and taking to the skies. And sure, there are a ton of aviation related events on our calendar, but what about other events. As our office is located in Louisville, Kentucky, and I personally live about a mile from Churchill Downs, one type of event that comes to my mind that comes to mind is horse racing. For my money, you’re not going to find a more exciting gambling venue than being trackside, right up near the action as the thoroughbreds thunder by!

Here is a list of some of the venues to which you may consider flying to experience the thrill of horseracing – airports that are close enough to the track that it’s worthwhile to land there:

Memorial Field Airport (HOT) – If you’re itching to start right away, fly into Hot Springs to hit up Oaklawn Racing. Better hurry though – racing ends halfway thru April!

Bowman Field (LOU) – As I mentioned, we’re not that far from Churchill Downs, and "the Greatest Two Minutes in Sports" known as the Kentucky Derby. This is the 140th year of the Run for the Roses, the first leg of the Triple Crown, and the biggest party you’ll ever find for a horse race. Festivities kick off with Thunder Over Louisville on April 12 with a huge airshow (featuring the Blue Angels this year) and the world’s largest fireworks demonstration.

Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshal Airport (BWI) – The second leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes, is rife with tradition of its own. Events leading up to the Stakes on May 17 include Sunrise at Old Hilltop, the Alibi Breakfast, and a Jockey autograph session. A flight to Pimlico may be in order!

Belmont Stakes on June 7. The day will feature a $1 Million Guaranteed All Graded Stakes Pick 6 and a $1 Million Guaranteed All Graded Stakes Pick 4. That’s a lot of $100 hamburgers!

There are obviously many more, and you can find many more of them at this link. If you want to win, place or show, these are all winning places to show up!

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.

Youth Aviation Adventure – Igniting Interest in Aviation Careers

I took some time at Oshkosh this year with Steve Wathen, Co-founder and Chairman of Youth Aviation Adventure, to learn about their program. "YAA is a fast-paced, ½-day program for youth ages 12-18 to foster interest in aviation. More than 300 pilots and aviation enthusiasts’ nationwide, using curriculum developed with and endorsed by the Ohio State University Department of Education, train in aviation fields such as aircraft instrumentation, aerodynamics, pre-flight routine, airport operations and careers in aviation and more."

According to the FAA, the number of student pilot certificates issued in 2009 was approximately 72,000, a 23% decline from 2000, and the forecast shows continued decline. In the next 20 years, the demand for aviation professionals will exceed supply, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). This shortage will include commercial pilots, aviation engineers and aircraft maintenance personnel.

YAA, through their Partner Programs (currently 27 nationwide, in 17 states total) offers a unique experience. The 20-minute station sessions include time for Q&A with the pilots and aviation professionals. A typical program hosts 25 to several hundred youth at each event, presented by at least seven volunteers. While the majority of participants are Boy and Girl Scouts (fulfills requirements for the Aviation Merit Badge), the program is open to any young person interested in learning more about aviation.

The Youth Aviation Adventure’s primary goals are growth and awareness. They are currently seeking installing their Large Group Program (LGP) in 50 cities nationwide by 2017, reaching an average of 30,000 kids per year. YAA has also is developing a new Small Group Program (SGP) for a dozen or fewer youth at any given time. This project timeline calls for modifying the curriculum and beta testing the program in 250 locations starting in January of 2014, with full national rollout by the end of the year.

During the first ten years of its existence, YAA operated solely in Columbus, OH. By 2007, they has expended to Cincinnati, OH. In its time, more than 8,000 youth have been exposed to aviation by the YAA, and nearly 2,000 adults accompanying youth at their events have gone through the YAA program. Financial support comes from individuals, businesses, organizations and foundations, including the AOPA, the Aviation Electronics Association, Boeing, Jeppesen, the Professional Pilots Association, the Sporty’s Foundation and the Wolf Aviation Fund.

At this year’s EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh (YAA’s 5th year in attendance), the YAA spoke with over 20 potential Partner Programs, so interest is continuing to grow. Partner Programs are asked for a minimum of an annual program (some do it as often as twice a year). To reach their goals, additional Partner Programs are essential, so the search for more volunteers is constant.

In addition to awareness, the Youth Aviation Adventure is also a finalist in the Lightspeed Aviation Foundation’s Pilots Choice Awards, in which the top five non-profit vote-getters in each of two divisions will receive grants to assist in program growth.

FBO of the Week – Orion Flight Services Inc. (OSH)

When your FBO is in Oshkosh, WI, chances are good that you will be extremely busy the last couple of weeks of July! And no doubt the folks at Orion Flight Services are among the busiest in preparing for the influx of pilots flying in for AirVenture.

The staff at Orion are aviation career professionals, so they’re always ready for help on your charter needs, aircraft consultation, and learning to fly. They have a page set up on their website to assist in pre-registration of fuel purchase & ramp space that you’ll want to check out. FBO hours of operation during Airventure 7 am - 8 pm Daily.

FBO of the Week – Yellowstone Jet Center (BZN)

When you think of the popular attractions in the Northwest,Yellowstone National Park will probably appear near the top of your "must see" list. And if you’re a pilot, one of the best places to start is Yellowstone Jet Center in Belgrade, Montana.

Yellowstone Jet Center, since 2000, has been a destination for travelers seeking Grand Teton and Glacier national parks as well, as well as the Club at Spanish Peaks and the resorts in Big Sky. Named a top 40 FBO by AIN for many years, it’s also a great outlet for golfers, skiers, hunters and fisherman alike to begin their trek.

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