Your Weekly Lex, For Strength

Cooler Talk

Mostly Navy here at the salt mines, retired and resigned. Kind of a half way house for naval officers.
So anyways, we’ve got a new team member that has but recently joined our group. We started swapping sea stories, and he asked me did I know of a certain “Smoke”, F-14 pilot extraordinaire of yore.
Smoke was a young junior grade nose gunner, with an experienced RO in his truck, for to guide him around and tell him what to do and such. Middle of the Med for a deployment, launching off into the burning blue for an air defense exercise. Those tricksie E-2C controllers found the refueling point for the OPFOR air, and vectored Smoke and RO to the tanker circle, for to catch the bad guys unawares, like, as they were coming off the tanker.
They arrived on station and snuggled up in trail just as a USAF Phantom was coming off the tanker. “Kill, bandit” the E-2 controller radioed.
Smoke sat patiently in trail, his Sidewinder seeker head abuzz.
“Have you shot him yet?” the RO asked, with growing impatience. There being other bandits to target, and life being short.
“What do you want me to do?” Smoke asked.
“Kill him,” the RO responded with vigor. “Shoot him.”
Meaning, off course, to make a “Fox 2, kill” call on the exercise radio frequency.
Nuggets being nuggets, Smoke pondered the unexpected complexity of life in the fleet, armed up his weapons system, centered the dot and shot an actual Sidewinder into the tailpipe of the actual Phantom.
The USAF crew were sore amazed and concerned that order had turned so rapidly to chaos, what with all the explosions back aft, the sudden illumination of fire lights and the loss of hydraulic controls. Discretion being far the better part of valor, they shelled out of their crippled machine, giving it back over to the taxpayers. It wasn’t until long after that they found out that they’d been shot out of the sky. By their own Navy.
“Amazing that such a thing could happen,” my workplace interlocutor said.
“Sure is,” your humble answered. Amazing.”

Gravity Check

Me setting up for a buzz job to celebrate my friend Kevin making his 151 one armed skydives for parkinson’s disease.  You can see the crowd gathered in front of the building to congratulate him and moon me as I fly past.  The GO PRO on the tail of the PAC-750 makes it look like I’m going to fly by at a safe altitude and as far as the FAA is concerned, I did.

Ferry Flight Pic Of The Day


Marcio and I doing some high altitude cruzin in the Cirrus over France last winter.  Notice that Marcio is the only one sucking on the O2 because the big baby needs it to stay conscious whenever we climb over fifteen thousand feet, loser.

Your Weekly Lex, For Strength

Task Saturation

Three priorities are drilled into every fledgling naval aviator’s head from the day he starts flight school: Aviate, navigate, communicate – in that order. The first and eternal priority is to maintain control of the aircraft and try to keep it in the middle of the sky, staying clear of all the edges.
Having done so, it’s considered good form to be aware of where you are from moment to moment, mostly so that you’ll get to where you hope to be going but also so that you don’t go anywhere you’re not supposed to be. When you’re cruising along at 0.9 indicated Mach or so, it’s easier than it looks to get off track if you don’t pay attention, which is why the Navy invested so much money in digital moving maps and GPS-aided inertial navigation systems.
Finally, while  maintaining aircraft control and boldly proceeding along the pre-planned track, you’re supposed to maintain cheerful exchanges of data with your wingman, air traffic control or tactical controllers. Occasionally they’ll have significant things to tell you, such as vectors, holding instructions, approach clearances, formation changes, SAM launches and, oh, yeah: Terrain avoidance instructions. For those times when your mission takes you to one of the sky’s edges.
If you get task saturated – and eventually everyone does – the idea is that you shed the lesser priority tasks in sequence. But you never give up the “fly the jet” bit.
In the late fall of 1987, I had returned from my first deployment and the squadron was in the middle of a readiness bathtub, with parts, flying hour money and even whole aircraft being surged forward to squadrons preparing for deployment. We were also shaking out some of the kinks in the then-new FA-18A aircraft design, such as landing gear planing links that failed to plane the main landing gear along the aircraft longitudinal axis when the wheels came down. A planing link failure could and did cause aircraft that were otherwise performing nicely to depart the runway on landing, veering off into the brambles. We were also working through the replacement of landing gear axle lever arms, which had an alarming tendency to break on landing aboard ship, causing the machine to collapse in the arresting wires and foul the flight deck. There were issues with the GE F404 engines too, including afterburner liners that blew out, and compressor turbine blades that would crack, spin off, get trapped against the whirling compressor section until white hot and then shoot out the side of the compressor casing. Some times these molten slugs went outboard, where no additional damage was done apart from violent stalls and casing fires on the offending engine. When Murphy got his vote, the slug would cut inboard through the fuselage, merrily severing hydraulic lines and electrical cabling before squirting in to the compressor section on the opposite engine, where the whole process was duly repeated.
The first case left you flying on one engine, with an elevated heart rate from all the bangs, beeps, squeaks and red warning lights in the cockpit, accompanied by Bitchin’ Betty’s dulcet tones, “Engine Left, Engine Left,” or if you were really having a blast, “Engine Fire Left, Engine Fire Left.” The second case doubled your pleasure and left you only the option of performing the Martin-Baker approach to landing.[…]

Stick And Rudder

While the crash of Asiana flight 777 is still supposedly “under investigation” almost every pilot out there has already come to the conclusion that it nothing more than pilot error.  Having flown all over the world on all kinds of airlines I can tell you that I’ve had the worst rides and landings on Asian carriers and have talked to other pilots who’ve had similar experiences.  Here is a write up on an American instructors experiences working in Korea.  It’s got a lot of inside baseball like the use of AT, auto throttles, but his basic point is that very few of these foreign pilots have any time flying small planes and therefore poor stick and rudder skills.


On July 6, 2013 at approximately 1827Z I was the 747-400 relief F/O on flt 885, ID326/06 SFO-KIX. I was a witness to the Asiana Flt 214 accident. We had taxied to hold short of runway 28L at SFO on taxiway F, and were waiting to rectify a HAZMAT cargo issue as well as our final weights before we could run our before takeoff checklist and depart. As we waited on taxiway F heading East, just prior to the perpendicular holding area, all three pilots took notice of the Asiana 777 on short final. I noticed the aircraft looked low on glidepath and had a very high deck angle compared to what seemed “normal”. I then noticed at the apparent descent rate and closure to the runway environment the aircraft looked as though it was going to impact the approach lights mounted on piers in the SF Bay. The aircraft made a fairly drastic looking pull up in the last few feet and it appeared and sounded as if they had applied maximum thrust. However the descent path they were on continued and the thrust applied didn’t appear to come soon enough to prevent impact. The tail cone and empennage of the 777 impacted the bulkhead seawall and departed the airplane and the main landing gear sheared off instantly. This created a long debris field along the arrival end of 28L, mostly along the right side of 28L. We saw the fuselage, largely intact, slide down the runway and out of view of our cockpit. We heard much confusion and quick instructions from SFO Tower and a few moments later heard an aircraft go around over the runway 28 complex. We realized within a few moments that we were apparently unharmed so I got on the PA and instructed everyone to remain seated and that we were safe.

As I suspect you are, I am an “auto-flight cynic”, but it is what it is and it brings much that is positive to the table, IF you use it properly.

Ah, there’s the rub, and it’s a tough one.

In my own opinion, the biggest danger we face right now is the new practice of many airlines, especially in “less developed” countries, going to some sort of Cadet/ab initio program account severe crew shortages.

The problem isn’t with the concept but with the training, especially the hare-brained idea to now offer a pilot’s license at a level much lower (crew only) than is now the norm, training pilots to act as an ” integrated crew member” with all emphasis on SOPs ( a good thing) and automation, but no emphasis on true basic airmanship and how it relates to the narcotic trap of automation.

With reference to your comment about “all or nothing”, that’s a good option, but I disagree in part with your conclusion. There is nothing wrong in my mind about using A/T while hand flying, as an option, as long as you keep your brain engaged and keep your hands on the throttles at critical times, such as take-off (obviously) and also on approach.

I gave lots of OE on the 737-300, 757/767/777 and I insisted that the pilot keep his/her hands on the throttles during the approach if hand flying. What they did after that I really can’t say, but I would hope that I helped instill a good habit.

Even though you could, for instance on the 777, use A/T all the way to touch down while hand flying, I completely discouraged that and never, ever did it myself since it made no sense to me at all.

The main problem, and obvious at least to me, is that the A/T on flare and landing is keyed to the A/P flying it’s profile and not the profile most pilots would hand fly. The few that I witnessed were never great, and mostly ugly.

Fleet Captain’s final comment: “Boeing says you can do it”.

My final comment: “Boeing builds airplanes, airlines fly them, and we try to do it without scaring the crap out of their passengers”.

Could not agree more!!! Just because DENTK recommended something that does NOT make it gospel. Circumstances dictate what to use and what not to use. Again a proper approach briefing noting G/S out and considering a built VNAV profile for vertical guidance could have prevented this accident. Considering the Captains time in the A/C, overall experience, and apparently no CLR coordination they set themselves up.

I have personally witnessed on IOE’s inexperienced crewmembers in a window seat, both Capts and F/O’s attempt to hand fly with autothrottles ON in gusting wind conditions. The autothrottles react to many things, like accelerometers, air data computer inputs etc. They DO NOT know what you the pilot will do with the controls if hand flying. It usually developes quickly into a cyclical airspeed chase with the airspeed getting out of the stabilized range simply because the pilot does not know what the autothrottles are doing and the autothrottle system has no idea what the pilot will do with the controls. For the passengers in the back they think a madman is at the controls with all the power changes. It frequently leads to a go around condition because of the airspeed being unstabilized at 500ft.

This accident is looking more and more like a hand flown approach, set up high initially with autothrottles on. Somewhere during the approach the autothrottles moved calling for thrust, possibly because of a speed set on the MAP. Still being high the quick solution was to click the authrottles OFF and re-focus on getting on vertical profile forgetting about speed. Then when thrust was needed it was either too late or nowhere to be found. Classic case of running out of airspeed. altitude, and ideas at the same time.

It seems to me that there are some pilots out there that when put on a 5 mile final in CAVU conditions cannot look out the window and fly a normal profile without electronic or visual aids..

After I retired from UAL as a Standards Captain on the –400, I got a job as a simulator instructor working for Alteon (a Boeing subsidiary) at Asiana. When I first got there, I was shocked and surprised by the lack of basic piloting skills shown by most of the pilots. It is not a normal situation with normal progression from new hire, right seat, left seat taking a decade or two. One big difference is that ex-Military pilots are given super-seniority and progress to the left seat much faster. Compared to the US, they also upgrade fairly rapidly because of the phenomenal growth by all Asian air carriers. By the way, after about six months at Asiana, I was moved over to KAL and found them to be identical. The only difference was the color of the uniforms and airplanes. I worked in Korea for 5 long years and although I found most of the people to be very pleasant, it’s a minefield of a work environment … for them and for us expats.

One of the first things I learned was that the pilots kept a web-site and reported on every training session. I don’t think this was officially sanctioned by the company, but after one or two simulator periods, a database was building on me (and everyone else) that told them exactly how I ran the sessions, what to expect on checks, and what to look out for. For example; I used to open an aft cargo door at 100 knots to get them to initiate an RTO and I would brief them on it during the briefing. This was on the B-737 NG and many of the captains were coming off the 777 or B744 and they were used to the Master Caution System being inhibited at 80 kts. Well, for the first few days after I started that, EVERYONE rejected the takeoff. Then, all of a sudden they all “got it” and continued the takeoff (in accordance with their manuals). The word had gotten out. I figured it was an overall PLUS for the training program.

We expat instructors were forced upon them after the amount of fatal accidents (most of the them totally avoidable) over a decade began to be noticed by the outside world. They were basically given an ultimatum by the FAA, Transport Canada, and the EU to totally rebuild and rethink their training program or face being banned from the skies all over the world. They hired Boeing and Airbus to staff the training centers. KAL has one center and Asiana has another. When I was there (2003-2008) we had about 60 expats conducting training KAL and about 40 at Asiana. Most instructors were from the USA, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand with a few stuffed in from Europe and Asia. Boeing also operated training centers in Singapore and China so they did hire some instructors from there.

This solution has only been partially successful but still faces ingrained resistance from the Koreans. I lost track of the number of highly qualified instructors I worked with who were fired because they tried to enforce “normal” standards of performance. By normal standards, I would include being able to master basic tasks like successfully shoot a visual approach with 10 kt crosswind and the weather CAVOK. I am not kidding when I tell you that requiring them to shoot a visual approach struck fear in their hearts … with good reason. Like this Asiana crew, it didnt’ compute that you needed to be a 1000’ AGL at 3 miles and your sink rate should be 600-800 Ft/Min. But, after 5 years, they finally nailed me. I still had to sign my name to their training and sometimes if I just couldn’t pass someone on a check, I had no choice but to fail them. I usually busted about 3-5 crews a year and the resistance against me built. I finally failed an extremely incompetent crew and it turned out he was the a high-ranking captain who was the Chief Line Check pilot on the fleet I was teaching on. I found out on my next monthly trip home that KAL was not going to renew my Visa. The crew I failed was given another check and continued a fly while talking about how unfair Captain Brown was.

Any of you Boeing glass-cockpit guys will know what I mean when I describe these events. I gave them a VOR approach with an 15 mile arc from the IAF. By the way, KAL dictated the profiles for all sessions and we just administered them. He requested two turns in holding at the IAF to get set up for the approach. When he finally got his nerve up, he requested “Radar Vectors” to final. He could have just said he was ready for the approach and I would have cleared him to the IAF and then “Cleared for the approach” and he could have selected “Exit Hold” and been on his way. He was already in LNAV/VNAV PATH. So, I gave him vectors to final with a 30 degree intercept. Of course, he failed to “Extend the FAF” and he couldn’t understand why it would not intercept the LNAV magenta line when he punched LNAV and VNAV. He made three approaches and missed approaches before he figured out that his active waypoint was “Hold at XYZ.” Every time he punched LNAV, it would try to go back to the IAF … just like it was supposed to do. Since it was a check, I was not allowed (by their own rules) to offer him any help. That was just one of about half dozen major errors I documented in his UNSAT paperwork. He also failed to put in ANY aileron on takeoff with a 30-knot direct crosswind (again, the weather was dictated by KAL).

This Asiana SFO accident makes me sick and while I am surprised there are not more, I expect that there will be many more of the same type accidents in the future unless some drastic steps are taken. They are already required to hire a certain percentage of expats to try to ingrain more flying expertise in them, but more likely, they will eventually be fired too. One of the best trainees I ever had was a Korean/American (he grew up and went to school in the USA) who flew C-141’s in the USAF. When he got out, he moved back to Korea and got hired by KAL. I met him when I gave him some training and a check on the B-737 and of course, he breezed through the training. I give him annual PCs for a few years and he was always a good pilot. Then, he got involved with trying to start a pilots union and when they tired to enforce some sort of duty rigs on international flights, he was fired after being arrested and JAILED!

The Koreans are very very bright and smart so I was puzzled by their inability to fly an airplane well. They would show up on Day 1 of training (an hour before the scheduled briefing time, in a 3-piece suit, and shined shoes) with the entire contents of the FCOM and Flight Manual totally memorized. But, putting that information to actual use was many times impossible. Crosswind landings are also an unsolvable puzzle for most of them. I never did figure it out completely, but I think I did uncover a few clues. Here is my best guess. First off, their educational system emphasizes ROTE memorization from the first day of school as little kids. As you know, that is the lowest form of learning and they act like robots. They are also taught to NEVER challenge authority and in spite of the flight training heavily emphasizing CRM/CLR, it still exists either on the surface or very subtly. You just can’t change 3000 years of culture.

The other thing that I think plays an important role is the fact that there is virtually NO civil aircraft flying in Korea. It’s actually illegal to own a Cessna-152 and just go learn to fly. Ultra-lights and Powered Hang Gliders are Ok. I guess they don’t trust the people to not start WW III by flying 35 miles north of Inchon into North Korea. But, they don’t get the kids who grew up flying (and thinking for themselves) and hanging around airports. They do recruit some kids from college and send then to the US or Australia and get them their tickets. Generally, I had better experience with them than with the ex-Military pilots. This was a surprise to me as I spent years as a Naval Aviator flying fighters after getting my private in light airplanes. I would get experienced F-4, F-5, F-15, and F-16 pilots who were actually terrible pilots if they had to hand fly the airplane. What a shock!

Finally, I’ll get off my box and talk about the total flight hours they claim. I do accept that there are a few talented and free-thinking pilots that I met and trained in Korea. Some are still in contact and I consider them friends. They were a joy! But, they were few and far between and certainly not the norm.

Actually, this is a worldwide problem involving automation and the auto-flight concept. Take one of these new first officers that got his ratings in the US or Australia and came to KAL or Asiana with 225 flight hours. After takeoff, in accordance with their SOP, he calls for the autopilot to be engaged at 250’ after takeoff. How much actual flight time is that? Hardly one minute. Then he might fly for hours on the autopilot and finally disengage it (MAYBE?) below 800’ after the gear was down, flaps extended and on airspeed (autothrottle). Then he might bring it in to land. Again, how much real “flight time” or real experience did he get. Minutes! Of course, on the 777 or 747, it’s the same only they get more inflated logbooks.

So, when I hear that a 10,000 hour Korean captain was vectored in for a 17-mile final and cleared for a visual approach in CAVOK weather, it raises the hair on the back of my neck.

My son spent a little over 3 years at KAL ( 777 F/O) after his second furlough from UAL and I think you can rest assured that very little has changed with this, what, over 1,000 year old culture.
Delta’s safety stand down did have some positive effects, but some of those have started to wear off.
I’ll leave it at that, mainlybecause it’s a complex subject, and there’s enough grist to populate a PhD Thesis in CLR.

Comment on the practice of hand-flying a visual approach with auto-throttles engaged. Totally an appalling and ill-advised practice. Either fly lautomatic or all manual. I wonder if TK is aware of the practice you mentioned. Same no-no as some pilots using stabilizer trim in the flare. Where do these ideas come from?

I stand by my previous comments on this subject.

With A/T engaged if you keep your hands on the throttles, during critical phases of flight such as approach, this accomplishes:

1) Communicates to the PNF that you’re thinking.

2) Communicates to yourself, via whatever portion of your brain that sorts our cognitive awareness with physical action, that “yes, I am flying east, and I am aware”

3) The A/T can be an excellent back stop to help prevent getting too slow if your attention does momentarily get distracted.

4) With hands on the throttles and A/T engaged, sometimes automatic
throttle movement can make you aware of a pending change in the air mass that you have not yet picked up through other cues. See “momentary distraction”, above.

I understand where you’re coming from, but leaving the A/T engaged is not really “mixing autoflight with manual flight’, but merely adds another option.

Does the danger you envision exist? Of course it does, but then again, we’ve had accidents account:

speed brakes left out during final approach, flaps forgotten on take-off, take-off with severely mis-set elevator trim, wrong flap setting on take-off, wrong runway used for take-off, taxiway used for take-off, taxiway used for landing, landing on closed runway, and on and on, ad nauseum.

The point is, all we can do is train to best practices, reinforce best practices and habits during PCs and Line Checks, keep up with safety alerts from both the Company and ALPA and then hope that it’s all enough.

Sometimes it isn’t, and the best way to avoid a problem with the particular subject we’re discussing is to teach and demand understanding of how to integrate with any of the “automatic systems” that we are blessed or plagued with, depending on your point of view, and try to extract the benefit from the tolls we’re given while respecting how they can get you into trouble.

I do believe that George Bleyle (sp?) has expounded on this many times from the Airbus point of view.

It’s not perfect, but “there it is”, in my opinion.

The old “stick and throttle” guy has mostly disappeared. If you are old enough to have flown the DC-6 and then proceeded up through the various glass cockpits, you have seen the A/C manufacturers push us out of the cockpit with amazing technology. Do you recall the day when you realized that you were spending more time programming the FMC and watching it do it’s bag of tricks, than you were flying the airplane?
Flying skills are like any other skill. Learn it hands on, and then use it or lose it. Today, how many use it?
If you hired on in the late 80’s or the 90’s, you probably missed the stick and throttle days.

Tony, I certainly don’t want to argue with youbut my opinion stands – it is an unsound practice. Today’s pilots are becoming more and more reliant on automation but they still should practice basic flying skills. That is but one reason to not mix auto and manual. The most compellingreason is to avoid the potential trap of losing situational awareness. I acknowledge some of us are capable of always maintaining that but there are some among us who are not. I include the world community of commercial airline pilots in that assessment, the pool of which seems to be steadily entering service with only the skills to manage autoflight.


Lack Of Training

I turned on my GPS this morning and was really disappointed that it showed that my current location to be west central Wisconsin.  It’s not that I don’t like Wisconsin, it’s gods country after all, good beer, great cheese and good beer, did I say beer twice? Hmmmm.  Anyway the reason I’m disappointed is that I was hoping to be in Rio de Janeiro  instead.  Last week I was contacted by a Brazilian aviation company to see if I was available to ferry a brand new G-58 Baron from the factory in Wichita  Kansas down to Brazil.  I thought about it for a whole two or three seconds before responding that why yes, yes I would.  It might be a rather warm time of year to fly through the Caribbean and down across the equator but the prospect of a few days in Rio would more than make up for having to climb into a hot plane over and over.  I filled out the required insurance forms and thought everything was jake when the company sent me a second list of requirements.  They were, 1. First class medical. I have a second class medical but could get a first class if need be.  2. Have completed G-58 training within the last 12 months.  That was going to be a problem because I’ve never had any formal Baron training, I’m an old school ferry pilot, I just get in a go.  3. Completed international operations training within the last 24 months.  More problems, I’ve been flying around the world for over 20 years but don’t have any formal training, hell I should be teaching the class.  4. How much time do I have in a G-58?  Why none, see response to question 2.  5. current passport, yippee, one out of 5.  I knew this day was going to come someday.  Back in the old days a ferry pilot could get into just about any aircraft and fly it over the ocean, almost no questions asked.  But in the last few years as the planes got more and more expensive the insurance companys have been requiring ferry pilots to have more and more training.  I sent in my answers to their form and was informed that I wasn’t qualified to fly the Baron so thanks but no thanks.  It looks like I have some training in my future.