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Mayday, Mayday, Mayday! - the Origin of a Distress Call

In honor of May Day (May 1st, a holiday associated with the beginning of spring and the labor movement in many counties), I thought I’d take a moment to explore how the same word came to mean HELP in aviation!

The term Mayday is used internationally as a distress signal in voice procedure radio communications. It derives from the French venez m'aider, meaning “come help me”. It is used to signal a life-threatening emergency by many groups, such as police forces, pilots, firefighters, and transportation organizations. The call is always given three times in a row ("Mayday Mayday Mayday") to prevent mistaking it for some similar-sounding phrase under noisy conditions, and to distinguish an actual Mayday call from a message about a Mayday call.

The Mayday procedure word originated in 1923 by Frederick Stanley Mockford (1897–1962). A senior radio officer at Croydon Airport in London, Mockford was asked to think of a word that would indicate distress and would easily be understood by all pilots and ground staff in an emergency. Since much of the traffic at the time was between Croydon and Le Bourget Airport in Paris, he proposed the word "Mayday" from the French m’aider.

Before the voice call "Mayday", SOS was the Morse code equivalent of the Mayday call. In 1927, the International Radiotelegraph Convention of Washington adopted the voice call Mayday in place of the SOS Morse Code call.

Other emergency calls include “Pan-Pan” (from the French: panne – a breakdown), or simply “declaring an emergency” – although the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) recommends using the two terms above to prevent confusion and errors in aircraft handling. The use of these terms without proper cause could render the user liable to civil and/or criminal charges.

Now to come full circle, I leave you with a related scene from one of your favorite aviation films.

Develop Your Next Aviation Manager with CAM

Professional development is a given expectation within management. Within aviation, this expectation clearly extends to aviation-specific training. Pilots get recurrent training in simulators, maintenance technicians get recurrent training on the airframe, engine or avionics. But we do these men and women a disservice when we promote them from a technical position into a managerial position without giving them the tools they need to be successful managers.

I have seen instances where a senior captain who has done an exemplary job in the cockpit is congratulated and promoted into the aviation department manager position. What seems like a logical move turns sour when the pilot-turned-Manager finds himself facing a budget cut, a problem employee, and OSHA regulatory issues in the hangar. None of these situations was addressed during engine-out training! They got frustrated and either seek a return to the cockpit or leave for another flying position with no management duties. Future aviation leaders need training and experience in the managerial arts.

Commanding a second person in the cockpit takes special skills. But those skills need additional development for leading a large team. Corporate aviation leaders need to understand the vision and mission of the corporation and how aviation is an essential business tool. They need to know how to  align their aviation department goals with the overall corporation's goals. They then need to develop a leadership and communication style appropriate to their personality that will inspire they aviation team.

Aviation department leaders need to develop skills in operations management. This extends well beyond aircraft operations to include business risk analysis, cost benefit analysis, record keeping and audit requirements, OSHA and hazardous materials regulations, and more. As part of their operations management the aviation leader is often a facilities manager. 

Lastly, the aviation manager needs skills in all the remaining business management skills. The aviation manager is running a small business. They need financial skills in budgeting, forecasting, cost management, and taxes. They need to know what the record keeping requirements are and to be able to understand asset management of the aircraft and facilities.  The aviation manager needs to understand the corporate HR domain, and be able to communicate those policies to all the employees. This training combines both regulatory requirements and personnel management skills, or soft skills.

Within business aviation, we are fortunate to have a customized program geared to develop aviation professionals into management professionals: The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) Certified Aviation Manager (CAM).

The NBAA CAM certification and education program offers credit for professional experience, college courses, and professional development programs offered within the aviation community. The CAM program is a rigorous professional certification that is designed to maximize a busy aviation professional's time in developing the skills need to be managers in leaders.

Don't overlook maintenance technicians for this CAM training. I see the pilot career path progress from First Officer to Captain to Chief Pilot to Aviation Department Manager. But too often the maintenance technical career path ends at Chief of Maintenance. Even that position requires management and leadership skills. Maintenance Technicians are an overlooked source of future aviation department leaders. They often have a significant understanding of the aviation operation beyond the toolbox that the pilots have yet to learn. 

Promote personal development for your flight department personnel, just as a company does for middle managers seeking career advancement.


 

The Aerobatic Experience of a Lifetime

There is great excitement around Louisville right now. Last weekend Thunder Over Louisville came to our charming little city. Thousands of people gathered around the Ohio River to watch the Blue Angels, Lima Lima Flight team, Trojan Horsemen, Team AeroDynamix, and several other big names in airshow entertainment. It was a sunny day with a slight breeze, the perfect setting for the 25th anniversary of the airshow.

One of these Thunder performers was John Klatt. He is an Air National Guard pilot who proudly flies the F-16 “Fighting Falcon” and C-130 “Hercules” aircraft on combat, air support, and humanitarian missions. In addition to all of this, he is an airshow performer extraordinaire with over 10 years’ experience flying for millions of spectators. In his current routine he flies his MXS in a plethora of twists, turns, and flips at stunning speeds.

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to ride along with John and his flight crew for some practice before the big event. I strapped on my parachute and climbed into the front seat of their 300 horsepower Extra 300L. I had not experienced aerobatics previously, so as they secured me with the abundance of harnesses and safety straps I had a brief moment where I was questioning what I was getting myself into. Being born a thrill seeker, I gave a thumbs up to the crew and braced myself for the adventure that awaited us.

After an incredibly speedy liftoff, we flew in close proximity behind John in his single seat MXS. When we reached the practice area he headed north of the Ohio river and we headed south to do maneuvers. We started out simple, with just a dive from 5000’ to gain airspeed and roll into some steep turns. After this we did a hammerhead, loop, and barrel roll. I tried to play it cool but every moment I lost sight of the ground I couldn’t help but grin.

Flying aerobatics is what I believe to be one of the fundamentals of aviation. Humans have always been seeking out the biggest thrills. We question how fast something can go, how high we can fly. Part of human nature is pushing the limits and finding new ways of controlling our surroundings. For years we have been building faster and better aircraft in this pursuit of maximizing our abilities. Maybe I am getting too philosophical with this, but the entire concept of aerobatics beautifully demonstrates the human spirit. Airshows are built around this human adoration of pushing boundaries. The fact that we have created machines capable of such breathtaking feats is worth celebration enough. Add in the remarkable skill and talent of pilots like John Klatt, and you have a perfect display of human intellect and liveliness.

After I hopped out of the Extra 300L, I felt like my eyes had been opened to a whole new world of flying capabilities. The sheer power and agility of the plane shocked me. This truly was an unforgettable experience and I want to thank John Klatt and his team for this opportunity.

New EAA Video Answers Pilots’ Questions about Completing FAA MedXPress Medical Form

EAA AVIATION CENTER, OSHKOSH, Wis. — (April 9, 2014) — A new EAA video is answering the most common questions about the now-required MedXPress online form for FAA airmen medical certificates, including how to save time when completing the form.

This unique video features Dr. Greg Pinnell, a member of EAA’s Aeromedical Advisory Council, which consists of EAA-member physicians who volunteer their time to assist other members and guide EAA policy on aeromedical issues. Dr. Pinnell is also a senior flight surgeon for the U.S. Air Force’s 45th Space Wing and founded Air Docs, a health provider focused on aviation medical examinations and certification.

“Many longtime pilots are used to filling out the paper form at their own aviation medical examiner’s office, but the FAA now only allows the online form to be used,” said Sean Elliott, EAA’s vice president of advocacy and safety. “The online requirement has led to many questions and occasional confusion and misunderstanding for pilots unfamiliar with the MedXPress system. This new EAA video answers questions, clears confusion, and ensures the first step in obtaining an airman medical certificate is a smooth one.”

During the 20-minute video Dr. Pinnell goes step-by-step through the MedXPress registration and completion process. That includes displaying individual online screens and easy-to-follow instructions on completing the pre-examination paperwork.

“Along with showing the MedXPress online completion process, the video discusses many of the related questions that EAA headquarters receives on a regular basis, as well as those I receive as a senior aviation medical examiner,” Dr. Pinnell said. “We’ve found that having this type of visual instruction is a great help to clearing much of the confusion and apprehension that pilots might have when using the system.”

EAA embodies the spirit of aviation through the world’s most engaged community of aviation enthusiasts. EAA’s 185,000 members and 1,000 local chapters enjoy the fun and camaraderie of sharing their passion for flying, building and restoring recreational aircraft. For more information on EAA and its programs, call 800-JOIN-EAA (800-564-6322) or go to www.eaa.org. For continual news updates, connect with the EAA Twitter feed.

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!

John F Kennedy International Airport (JFK) – We can’t forget to the final jewel of the Triple Crown, the 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!