From: E-pilot To: DIPLOCAT Judith Bradt
a thorough job of flight planning certainly leaves me much better
able to concentrate and frees up more mental room to handle the
Which is one reason why your instructor should have known better
than to convince you to fly a different airplane than you'd expected.
about feeling rushed by one's instructor: Two points. I should
have listened to my gut when I was asked to change airplanes.
Gut said "no", even though this was an airplane I liked.
I hadn't flown it in over six months, and it had crashed and just
been returned from an overhaul on which at least one post-repair
adjustment had needed to be made two days before.
preparation. Nothing. You ARE NOT at the stage of being comfortable
with last-minute changes and demands for flexibility. In some ways,
you NEED to be flexible -- point in case, being required to make
an approach different from one you were to expect: that, unfortunately,
is a part of the game. Flying a different airplane than you're used
to is almost ALWAYS a waste of time and money, in my not-humble
opinion -- speaking as an instructor of twenty years experience.
A student of any sort is learning to fly (1) new procedures, as
in instrument flying, or (2) a new airplane. Give them both (two)
major tasks to deal with, such as a non-familiar airplane or one
the pilot lacks recent experience in, or new procedures not yet
mastered, and the end result is LIKELY to be (1) a wasted lesson;
(2) a frustrated student; (3) erosion of the student-instructor
trust relationship; and (4) an unsuccessful experience which is
indelibily branded in the student's memory.
Thursday was disappointing, and I can see several more reasons
why. First, the flight we planned and I had prepared for, practicing
approaches at Davison Army Airfield (Ft.Belvoir), wasn't possible
because the tower there was closed and didn't permit civil aircraft
to use the field otherwise. Second, when we changed plans at the
last moment to shoot one VOR, one NDB, and one ILS, I didn't review
those charts very carefully before we left to plan out what I
was going to do, and then what, and then what. Granted, I guess
one can easily get cleared for a different approach than one planned,
and have to be able to read and understand the plate immediately.
However, I did not have the sequence of basic tasks for a VOR
approach well established in my mind. When partial panel was introduced
just over the VOR outbound, I got confused and struggled to regain
an idea of where I was, what I was doing, where I wanted to be,
and what I needed to do to get there.
I'm not surprised
that you had difficulties, Judy. First of all, I believe that your
problems, in part, are directly resulting from your experience some
time ago in the airplane with the electrical problems. It's perfectly
normal for anyone in your position. The problem encountered with
the last-minute change of equipment, couple with some highly irregular
problems encountered, would erode anyone's confidence a little.
That's normal. Next flight, anything which would distract your situational
awareness would tend to overload the thought processes. "Here
we go again." -- that sort of thing...
This is an
important lesson for you to learn.
Let me reassure
you that this is all a part of the process of becoming mentally
tough -- fighting until death stops you to stay aware and in control
of your situation. This process isn't detailed in INSTRUMENT FLYING,
FLYING THE WING, or any other great books about developing professional
The game here,
and it isn't necessarily intentional, is that you have to become
mentally tough to stay in control, to remain completely aware of
your entire situation -- fuel, weather, ATC or aircraft irregularities,
etc, etc. Distractions of any sort can be devilish, that is, they
can be absolute hell to deal with. But deal with them you can. And
To the same
degree that you have a mental game of tennis with the instructor,
that is, you CAN'T distract me, overload me, or give me a problem
too difficult to deal with -- no matter what he or she throws at
you -- you have to develop another tough mental game.
If you'll think
for a minute, any time a Space Shuttle is launched, the Launch Director
has several built-in HOLDs in the checklist which enables them to
"catch up" on small items -- so they can get the bird
off the ground without missing their launch window. Understand?
Now, this might
not be as original as I think it is, but when things really get
screwed up in flying, I AUTOMATICALLY REQUEST A HOLD or down-wind
vectors for the approach so that I CAN COLLECT MY WITS, REVIEW THE
CHECKLISTS, TAKE A MOMENT TO BREATHE, AND BRIEF THE APPROACH before
accepting vectors to the approach. It gives me TIME, repeat, TIME
to review and objectively double-check my own thought-processes;
it gives me TIME to consider the consequences of my decisions; it
gives me TIME -- a moment -- to relax.
I call this
"Creating a 'TIME' window" -- something you can open to
take a breathe of fresh air. It's like a built-in hold on a space
launch: I DON'T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING, but if there's something to
do, I can get it done before I have to concentrate on anything else.
It allows me to catch up, double-check my work, review the pending
approach, and to check "WHAT HAVE I FORGOTTEN OR NEGLECTED
who would fail an Instrument Rating applicant for requesting a hold
to sort things out after some sort of failure, in my opinion, doesn't
know much about professionalism in flying. As a professional, I
would NEVER object to someone creating a time window for themselves,
still getting used to the workload in flight, and rarely got a
chance to calculate much of anything. That's one thing I hope
to do MUCH better with practice.
We have two
flights in our system that are less than 10 minutes long. We barely
have enough time to do the checklists and brief the approach --
let alone deal with all the company-induced workload (there are
several excellent NASA papers concerning company-induced workload).
in flight are precisely the reason why I suggest getting a circular
E-6B computer, the pocket-sized whiz-wheel type which excludes the
wind bar which extrudes through the center of the circular computer.
Jeppesen calls theirs the Model CR Computer, Patent #2,775,404.
This one has Mach number scales on it, so you'll never have to buy
another one. :)
(For when you're
flying jets, kiddo.) :) ;) :)
You don't need
to be screwing around with a whiz-wheel on approaches -- this is
strictly cruise-type stuff.
OUT NUMBERS in my head (something I do not trust at all) is different
from giving my mind a conceptual problem to work on. The latter
was what I meant.
Oh. I thought
the two were related. Seems I read that somewhere in a human psychology
book concerning the psychphysiology of the human brain. Seems I
read somewhere something about developing the ability to solve various
problems -- such as figuring out numbers in your head -- helps you
develop the ability to solve complex analytical problems and/or
master difficult concepts. Complex synaptic reaction stuff. Oh well...
corrections would be good. If I could grab mental hold of that
surface wind ATIS report and manage to think about what that means
I should expect as I descend, that would help. So often, I get
the altimeter setting, and somehow don't do anything much with
the wind information.
ATIS may or
MAY NOT help. ATIS is OLD news; actual reported winds from the tower,
when checking in with them, are far more valuable -- to the extent
that their SURFACE winds, likely to be different from those on the
approach some distance out, are from some point (who knows where)
on the airport. My point was that when punching through cloud layers,
expect a wind shift above, in and immediately below the cloud layer.
Anticipate THOSE changes while ON APPROACH!
I realize that it is telling me about what to expect on both the
descent, approach and landing. That's why I just said that I need
to utilize the information.
key word was while ON approach. By definition, that anticipation
of wind shifts associated with clouds is one reason why they call
them PRECISION approaches. (grin, duck, run)
half the correction is a good idea. Several times, however, I've
been trying to correct for 30 degrees off, and the pie just keeps
getting more narrow -- fast.
I can visualize
what you mean, but I'm making some assumptions here. Again, I'll
point out that inside the OM/LOM/FAF, bank and heading corrections
MUST be limited to 10 degrees or less. If you're correcting for
30 degrees of heading change or bank angle, your scan dropped off
somewhere and it's likely to be a highly unstabilized
approach. Better to miss the approach and try again, sometimes.
Know what I mean?
of COURSE I learned things -- why do you think I write you these
notes, to tell you about the scenery? :) I suppose when I can
tell you about both, I'll have passed through yet another threshold
of some kind.
I hope you
learned things. Tell me, what color shoes was your instructor wearing?
Did you happen to notice that while you were on approach? How aware
of things are you? Are you expanding your awareness to pick up more
than localizer and glide slope? Can you feel the increased drag,
in the seat of your pants, going from 15 degrees of flaps -- the
moment when you must push over and add a little power?
time I hit a smell I don't recognize (on the ground), I stop the
engine, get out, and start sniffing. It would also make sense
to get down and do the same if I smell something odd in the air.
That's my privilege and responsibility as PIC.
True. But more
so, any -- repeat, ANY -- anamoly of your essential equipment must
be immediately investigated. Operating battery only, did you notice
the airplane being a little reluctant to start? Why did you wait
until everything electric started acting up (or dying) to wonder
what was happening? My point is that the failure you encountered
was not catastrophic -- there were warning signs you could have
noticed even before you first took off.
Prior to your
run-up, did you turn a landing light on and watch your ammeter?
Did it drop into discharge, or drop to zero? Did you repeat this
test in your engine run-up to see if the system was operating properly?
I'll bet that
if you'd checked the electrical system prior to flight, you'd have
seen ALL the warning signs that something was amiss in the system.
Not to get
you on the defensive, Judy, but the warning signs were ALL there.
You and your instructor just didn't take note of them. A failure
such as this didn't occur without warning. (Even Pipers have ammeter
gauges, don't they?
it a loose alternator belt smells from the friction/burn caused
when it's not tight enough to turn anything else. Also, I will
now remember "smell" and "electronics" as
being related. It's not a connection I'd thought much about...but
it should have been.
your nose would warn you, the ammeter would alert you to problems.
Even at idle RPM, the voltage regulator should allow sufficient
amps to power a high-draw item such as pitot heat and/or landing
light -- without a battery discharge.
Like NASA reports,
looking isn't always the same as seeing.
both noted, I learned a great deal, about both pre-flight plans
and checkouts as well as ability to handle an in-flight failure.
You may recall from one of my very early notes that I had seriously
doubted my ability to respond in an emergency. The most recent
experience belies that. No, I'm not God, but yes I certainly affirmed
that I am a capable person able to do what needs to be done.
Yes, I recall
your acute concern. Well done. Now, just don't allow yourself to
get into that situation again as you did.
another interesting development: on Thursday, when things did
not go very well -- I was disoriented, and did not complete any
approach with much success -- I did successfully fight the urge
to give up entirely. After all, if one gets disoriented in IMC,
you have to get it straightened out, either in your own mind or
by asking for help. You don't have a choice. You MUST regain control.
More importantly, I also did not disintegrate once we got down.
That has happened once or twice before, but I managed to hang
onto my senses and keep my ears open and absorb the lessons from
the debriefing without giving myself some kind of horrible mental
bashing just because I set myself up to fly a less than fully
to 'time windows" again. When you're ALL screwed up, it sometimes
helps to get away from the ground, hold someplace safe, and get
things sorted out for a few minutes -- fuel permitting. (In all
things, safety and a conservative approach using honed skills and
when you're running low on gas or that single engine airplane you're
flying has a fire, you can't screw around 'cause you might only
get one shot at it, if that. But all things being equal, fuel and
safety permitting, make yourself a time window before you get to
the point of initiating an approach when you're mentally overloaded.
some of the reasons why -- I let someone else rush me
all willing to please their instructor. It takes a couple of busted
lessons to make you stand up for your rights and kick the instructor's
butt, if only to get his attention and earn his respect. If I had
been in your position, I'd have been angry with both of us -- and
I'd have politely pinned his ears back a little for rushing you.
After all, YOU are paying HIM.