Airmanship

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The Basics

It seems increasingly often, people arrive new to a job, pretty much straight from whatever training facility they attended, where they have been trained in systems and practices intended to prepare them for "direct entry" into a Legacy Airline cockpit... it doesn't often happen that way; some may have a year or two of operational experience meat-bombing, glider-towing or on other GA activities. Bye-and-large, you will be provided with documentation, information and training specifically intended to prepare you to operate safely and competently in the airframe you are flying. Generally, no one will care about the 'Aviation Degree' you hold, what your previous Instructors (who have most likely never done the task you're bring prepared for) told you, or that you think you are owed an A380 seat.

  • Do NOT slam your aircraft doors -or allow any others to slam them. Close them gently -they'll lock just as securely. Slamming the doors adds nothing to the door security; all it does is (over time) distort the door so that it no longer seals correctly. You'll have constant drafts and possibly gaps between the door structure and the frame. Your aircraft fuselage is incredibly robust -as much as it is incredibly delicate. Treat it with a little respect, expect others (ground-crews, pax etc.) to do the same.
  • Treat your engine/s with respect! There's rarely any need to make hasty, large power lever movements. Anticipate the need; ease the power to where you want it to be, whether a reciprocator or a gas-turbine.

Be prepared

  • Know your airframe.
    • Commit to memory the items that you will be expected to know, like:
      • VSPEEDS,
      • Immediate Action Memory Items,
      • A basic Forced Landing Without Engine Power response plan. There is no need to try and formulate a comprehensive "one-size-fits-all" plan of action -because the potential circumstances of an engine failure in-flight are infinitely variable and your response will have to be appropriate to the circumstances of the moment. Know what is necessary and appropriate to the aircraft you are flying and have some idea of what and where to look for potentially suitable airfields or forced-landing sites in your immediate area;
    • Know how to conduct a competent, comprehensive Pre-flight Inspection of your airframe, engine/s and systems;
    • Know what your aircraft systems are -and know their normal and abnormal operation modes and appropriate responses;
    • Know your POH, know where and how to find the information you may need to look for and find, quickly and accurately;
  • Do not enter taxiways or RWY's until you are READY to Fly[1]. They are NOT the place to be conducting run-ups or 50 page checklists. You are holding-up the better-prepared pilot behind you, that's ahead of his aircraft;
  • Be aware of your prop-blast around other aircraft, on flight-lines and ramps and/or hangars;
    • Be aware to the prop-blast from other aircraft (and particularly helicopter rotor-wash) when you're parked on a ramp, out of the aircraft;
    • If there are are other aircraft operating nearby, consider installing control-locks;
    • Always secure any aircraft doors/hatches, wherever possible. First thing you do as you get out of your aircraft;

Don't reinvent the wheel

PinC

In any cockpit, there is only ever ONE PinC. During your training it will not be You. Don't forget that. You should however, consider that You are being trained with the desired end-result of You becoming PinC. Act appropriately.

Situational Awareness

  • LISTEN: Don't get so caught-up[1][2] in the minutiae of bloated challenge/response checklists or non-task-related cockpit conversations that you forget to monitor the radio traffic in your headset!!!
  • Build and maintain a mental picture of:
    • Where you are on your intended track;
    • Where other aircraft are in relation to your intended track:
      • Same direction? Faster? Slower? How's their climb/descent going in relation to yours?
      • Opposite direction? Roughly where along your track can you expect to cross the opposite traffic? Is your climb/descent profile likely to provide adequate separation when you cross? Is theirs?
      • Traffic that's likely to cross your intended track at some point? Roughly where along your track will they cross? Is your climb/descent profile likely to provide adequate separation when you cross? Is theirs?
  • What instructions are ATC units ahead of/behind you issuing to other traffic that may conflict you? Do you need to do anything about that?

Radiotelephony

Generally: Keep it short and shut the fuck up.

  • LISTEN: Don't get so caught-up[1] in the minutiae of bloated challenge/response checklists or non-task-related cockpit conversations that you forget to monitor the radio traffic in your headset!!!

Ownership

I wonder how many of you noticed the emphasis I have placed on the words you and your throughout this text?

Yes, it's deliberate. I want you to understand the need for you to take ownership of yourself, your airframe, your job and your attitude towards all of those things. There are people tasked with training you in various aspects of your future role. They can and will do the best they can to instill the very best of what they've learned in you, with the expectation (hope!) that you will at some point pick-up from however far they've been able to bring you and throughout your career, will develop and build upon the skills and knowledge you have been taught and in turn, pass your increased understanding, knowledge and skills to new generations of aviators.

It's also about you and your aircraft! When the doors are closed and the props are turning, you OWN the fucking thing. One day you'll look to your right -and there'll be no-one there to critique your actions or decisions, correct your errors or provide guidance. You'll be on your own; IN COMMAND. You will own the aircraft and everything that happens to it. If you've never accepted that responsibility previously, that may be a long time coming. From your 1st flight, accept that role and responsibility, act as if that is a part of your ongoing aviation practice -and you'll get there.

A Thought...

“After you become comfortable defying gravity for a living, you might let your guard down to … risks because you’ve successfully defied them for so long. But you can never become complacent to the risks. You should always remember the basic pilot skills needed to keep things under control.” “You cannot cede control of an aircraft you have been charged with flying, and you cannot become blind to committee-think when CRM attempts to take over. It is up to you to never become a passenger in Row 1 of any aircraft. You are, after all, the pilot.

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 There is one company here that operates predominantly multi-crew in essentially single-pilot airframes. It is frustratingly common to hear an "any traffic please advise" call, or for them to request traffic information from very busy ATC units, often at incredibly bad (busy) times. On the face of it: not bad airmanship. The reality however is, even with two crew on-channel, presumably listening to the 20-30 position and traffic reports over the preceding minutes, neither of them are able to comprehend and build a mental picture of where they are in relation to traffic. They're so engrossed in their challenge/response checklists that they both forget to Listen. Then they simply reach the point on their ridiculously bloated checklist that mandates the unnecessary "any traffic please advise" call -so that's what they do, which to me, demonstrates an egregious lack of airmanship, duplicated in the one cockpit.
  2. Frequently the same Company crews will taxi to the DEP THR of a mountain RWY -and sit there for 5min running the last 15 pages of their pre-departure checklist, despite traffic behind for DEP or on APP for the same RWY. If you've passed a RWY Hold-Line or taxied to a THR for DEP then be ready to depart as soon as you're lined-up. It is NOT the place to be running a bloated checklist when there is a queue of traffic waiting to use the same RWY.