“Just get in the plane and go!’



How ‘pilot pressure’ leads to fatal aircraft crashes in Alaska and Outside


In the wake of the records release this week on a fatal 2013 crash involving an Alaska State Troopers helicopter, the circumstances surrounding an earlier flight, to Kodiak in 2009, have come into sharp focus. An interview between National Transportation and Safety Board investigators and Sherry Hassell, the troopers’ Aircraft Section supervisor who retired in 2013, raised the issue of pilot pressure on that flight. According to her statement, Hassell recalled:


Shortly after she started work for the section, this pilot was asked to fly a Cessna 208 to Kodiak Island and pick up some people. After checking the weather, he informed her that the weather was not good and he did not want to go. When she informed the colonel (Commander of AWT), the response was that the pilot needed to “get in the plane and go.”


Alaska Public Safety Commissioner Gary Folger, the former commander named in Hassell’s statement, has denied the implication that he influenced pilot Rod Wilkinson’s decision to take that flight, insisting in an email to the Anchorage Daily News that “I have never made someone fly, it’s entirely up to the pilot.”

The issue of pilot pressure has been part of the aviation landscape in Alaska since its earliest days. Kotzebue airline owner Archie Ferguson was infamous for pushing his pilots to fly, as recounted in this 1943 observation by author Jean Potter in her book “The Flying North”:

He is driven to distraction when one of his men is weather bound away from Kotzebue. “Christ,” he will yell over the radio, with other airway stations listening. “I suppose yer boozin’ or God knows what yer doin’. The weather’s fine here. Come on back!” He is enraged when one of the pilots muffs a takeoff from Kotzebue’s frozen winter runway. He will stand by the field jumping, hitching up his pants, shouting and swearing. “Christ, hurry up! I’m losin’ five hundreds bucks a day! Oh Jeezus, I guess I’ll have ta do all the flyin’ myself!”

Unless you do nothing but fly in the immediate vicinity of your home airport on beautiful sunny days every pilot at some time or another will experience pressure to fly.  Sometimes it’s a demanding boss who losing money every minute you sit on the ground waiting for better weather.  Sometimes it’s your passengers who can’t understand why they have to miss that important meeting because of poor conditions along the route.  And sometimes the pressure come from you.  Many pilots, me included, get into a can do, must do, get the mission done at all costs attitude.  They rationalize that they’ve flown in such conditions, or worse, before and if they made it then they can make it again.  Sometimes they’re right and sometimes they’re wrong.  It can be a tough call but sometimes the bravest thing a pilot can do is to call it a day and go have a beer.


Skeliton Of The Sahara

I know I posted the story about the P-40 found in the desert a few months ago but I someone sent me this link to a more complete story with more and better pictures.

My Uncle Denis, pilot of the plane time forgot: First pictures of the man who crash-landed his plane in the Sahara and then walked off across the sands to his death

Reading for combat: Flt Sgt Copping proudly looks down from the cockpit of his Kittyhawk P-40


At least he’s on the center line.

Ferry Flight Pic Of The Day

Leaving The Soviet Union  Russia behind.


More Oops

2013 F/A-18 crash: Out of fuel, out of time and one chance to land

A great write-up about a chain of events that led to the loss of a Hornet.

The aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower was finally in sight.

The pilot of the F/A-18 Super Hornet hurriedly flipped switches and pushed levers. The aviator in the backseat leaned forward, straining to see the flight deck floating in the distance. The jet’s right engine had locked up, its landing gear had jammed, and the main fuel tank was almost empty.

At nearly 350 mph, the Super Hornet hurtled over the warm waters of the North Arabian Sea last April. The pilot had made some tough decisions that day; several hadn’t gone his way.

Now he was out of options. He had one chance to land. 


H/T: Jeff

The Mighty J58

  From this. Wright Brothers 12 hp. engine.The Wright Brothers' Engine

To this.  The Sr-71′s J58 engine.


It took less than 50 years to go from the Wright flyer to the Sr-71.  Just think about that for a minute.  What will the next 50 years bring?  I’m still waiting for my flying car BTW.

I Suppose That Was You, V

There are a number of airports around the world where ferry pilots cross paths; Goose Bay, Labrador, Shannon, Ireland, Santa Maria, in the Azores, Narsarsuaq, Greenland, Reykjavik, Iceland and of course St. Johns, Newfoundland. If two or more pilots happen to be at the same airport when flight planning an ocean crossing they will often check each other’s navigation, thoughts on the weather and possible routes. It’s also a great opportunity to catch up on the latest gossip, flying stories and stupid things other pilots have done.

Sitting at the flight planning table in St. Johns I watched snow swirling on the icy ramp without really seeing it. My mind was far away thinking about the hundred little details involved in my flight to Santa Maria island that morning. My thoughts were interrupted when a pilot in didn’t know walked up and asked if I was taking one of the northern routes. The new ferry pilot had been directed to me by the director of operations as one of the more experienced ferry pilots around, a title I had never expected to obtain.

I knew the routes the young pilot was asking about; St. Johns to Goose Bay, Labrador, then on to Iceland with a stop in Greenland if needed or straight to Iceland from Newfoundland if you had favorable winds and enough fuel. Those routes could save a ferry pilot time and money but one of the first things Pete Demos taught me when I started flying for Orient Air was to stay away from the northern route in the winter. The brutal cold found near the Arctic Circle made flight operations difficult and dangerous. Oil congealed, making engines difficult to start, throttle and mixture cables froze and broke, batteries ran down and maintenance was expensive.

As bad as the flying was, it was nothing compared to the conditions you were flying over. Crashing on land during winter could mean hypothermia and frostbite, going down in the water meant almost certain death. If you found yourself in your life raft in the north Atlantic at that time of year it was unlikely you could survive the frigid temperatures long enough for a ship to reach you, especially if you got wet getting into your raft.

Just weeks before that I had heard about a pilot who had been rescued after going down in the ocean en-route to Iceland. In my opinion he was one lucky son of a bitch and I didn’t hesitate to add my opinion of him to my answer.

No, I’m not taking the northern route, not like that moron who went down last month.”

A voice spoke up from behind me, “And what moron would that be?”

I turned around in my seat and looked at the man standing there.

I suppose that was you.” I said, a little embarrassed.

Yep, that was me.”

Sorry,” I said sheepishly “what happened?”

The ferry pilot sat down on the edge of the table I was working on and told me his story.

He was flying a small single engine plane from the U.S. to England with the new owner along as a passenger. Personally I hated flying with the owner on a ferry trip or anyone else for that matter. When I’m alone on a trip I have no one to answer to, no one to argue with the decisions I make, no one to see my mistakes. When you have another pilot along they have a tendency to question everything you do and generally make a nuisance of themselves. They also use up precious supplies too fast if you end up in the raft. Although if worst came to worst you could always eat them.

The two of them were about three hours out from St. Johns on their way to Iceland when the pilot noticed the oil pressure dropping. Almost immediately rising oil temperature confirmed the problem, they were losing oil and losing it fast. The pilot immediately headed back toward St. Johns but it didn’t take long for the engine to start making a loud squealing noise followed by smoke coming into the cockpit. When they started losing power the pilot made a mayday call to Gander Control and gave them their position from the GPS as they descended into the thick cloud deck they’d been flying above.

The pilot told me that he almost screwed up big time by trying to stay in the air as long as he could because as the Mooney made its long shallow descent, flames started flickering under the cowling. Luckily by the time the engine fire started they were less than a thousand feet over the ocean and almost through the clouds.

To Be Continued:

Ferry Flight Pic Of The Day

The southern tip of Greenland doesn’t offer many places to land if you lose an engine so I like to bring two!



More Oops

Swiss Pilot flying around the world forced to land in Indonesia arrested at gunpoint.

A Swiss pensioner flying around the world in an aircraft he built himself has been arrested in Indonesia after flying into the country's airspace illegally, according to an Air Force spokesman

Watch him boys!  He might be dangerous!

Apparently this retired airline pilot was on a 2 year around the world flight when he stumbled into Indonesian airspace and was forced down by Air Force fighters.  Now I’ve had poor receptions at various countries some included automatic weapons others just very angry airport managers or customs agents but never something as ridiculous as this.

  It is not clear whether Peier is being held by the Indonesian authorities, or whether he has been released

Gotta love the circular firing squad, very professional.

Read More:

Ferry Flight Pic Of The Day

Annecy France with the French Alps in the background.  One of the best stops in the world.


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