AVmail: Oct. 18, 2004
Reader mail this week about ATC staffing, presidential pilots, airline woes and more.
Pilots have their own agenda while operating an aircraft and that is, or should be, getting to the destination in one piece. My job is to make sure that the folks in that other aircraft, with the same agenda as you've got, don't occupy the same space as you at the same time. That means I must control the outcome to ensure there's space between. Anybody who wants to criticize my colleagues or me needs to first understand that our agenda and yours are very similar but not identical.
Yes, there are controllers who seek out ways to abuse the system. As a reminder, there are also pilots who fly intoxicated. I would never lump those together with the rest of the truly dedicated, safety-minded flight crews out there, and I'd hope you ATC detractors out there would be able to recognize there's a very large contingent of the ATC workforce truly committed to your safety and serving the public trust.
While I'd certainly like to see some things change in my field, I'd have to say the same about the "me first" mentality many fliers bring to the skies. While it may never happen, I'm not about to let that sour my attitude nor my commitment to taking care of the folks in the air. ATC is a faceless field that requires collaboration and teamwork from both sides and a lot of the comments and opinions I've read in this forum are from folks who seem to have lost sight of that. I think it's time to re-focus.
You're a taxpayer, come pay me a visit. Sit next to me while I vector your family members in to a safe landing. Spend a couple of hours in the radar facilities at Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, New York, Memphis or the California Coast TRACONS (No disrespect to those not mentioned). Not a few minutes but a few hours. Witness a heavy volume inbound. Then come back and write what you know about Air Traffic Control. You can't get it all from the cockpit and you sure can't get it reading a magazine. Once you've been there, you'll understand and you'll know how important it is to make sure that controllers who are about to retire (50% of the ones you watched) get replaced pretty quickly.
CPC MEM ATCT
Presidential Pilot Comparison
As a general aviation pilot, I have watched this year's presidential race with a certain interest, because both of the candidates are themselves pilots. President Bush has made a point of promoting his military flying background as an example of his fitness for command. The Boston Globe ran a piece on Kerry identifying him as a licensed commercial and instrument-rated pilot, giving examples of his serious attitude toward this challenging avocation. Both men have exceeded my current level of training and experience, and I respect them both for it.
It turns out that there are two aspects of pilot training that specifically address significant issues of this presidential campaign, those issues being "Command Responsibility" and "Decision-Making Skills." I have found my aeronautical training useful to weed through the rhetoric and spin that is being put forth.
A lot has been said in this campaign about the responsibility of command, and pilot training specifically addresses this issue under the title of "Pilot in Command Responsibility." In particular, five "hazardous attitudes" are listed that interfere with the ability to effectively command, in much the same manner as the seven deadly sins are identified in the Bible. They are:
Anti-authority: Resentment of another person telling you what to do, or the belief that rules and procedures are unnecessary.
Impulsivity: The need to act immediately without considering the best solution to a problem.
Invulnerability: The belief that bad things will not happen to you regardless of the circumstances.
Macho: The need to prove you are better than anybody else, resulting in risk taking behaviors.
Resignation: The belief that fate is in play, your actions cannot alter the path, or that someone else is responsible.
The ability of each candidate to make appropriate decisions has also been hotly contested. The FAA's acronym to define the process is DECIDE, as reprinted below:
Detect the fact that a change has occurred
Estimate the need to counter or react to the change
Choose a desirable outcome for the success of the flight
Identify actions that could successfully control the change
Do the necessary action to adapt to the change
Evaluate the effect of the action
With regard to the definitions above, I believe that John Kerry exhibits fewer (zero) "hazardous attitudes" than President Bush (four). Kerry is also outpacing President Bush with respect to decision-making abilities, as he has detected the fact that a change has occurred, and gotten all the way to "Identify actions" that include repairing damaged global alliances. A successful Kerry election campaign would allow the "Do" and "Evaluate" to take place.
At any rate, it's good to know that a pilot will be at the controls. The Iraqi ground is coming up very fast in the spinning windscreen. Somebody, please reduce power, kick opposite rudder, and level the wings.
Airline and Pilot Woes
Regarding the item that airline flying "just isn't fun anymore," (NewsWire, Oct. 11). It isn't. Much could be said, but what attracted me to the job is rapidly disappearing. It was great the bulk of my career to look forward to the next trip. It was fun, and that keeps you motivated. Today, there is no job security, stupid and insane security hassles, and lack of respect for our experience and skills. Bottom line: My advice to young people is to find something else. I sincerely don't believe that the career is now worth putting up with all you have to do to get the job. If you have the energy and intelligence to get an airline flying job, you will likely be successful in any enterprise you pursue. I'll let you decide what that indicates about the future quality forward of the cockpit door.
They have to stay at cheap, boring motels close to the airport? They have to take their shoes off to go through security? You mean they now have to endure the same things that most of the rest of us do? What a travesty! God forbid that airline pilots have to be treated like us lowly commoners! It sounds to me like somebody needs to quit whining and enjoy the fact that they have a job that pays $100K+/yr. Give me a job that pays that, and I'll stay at cheap motels and take my shoes off all you want.
Airline pilots need to realize that the free ride is over. They describe a "stressed-out, worn-out, discouraging climate." Well, welcome to the real world, ladies and gentlemen. That's what many of us have had to deal with for years. Ask somebody in the IT industry (like me) if you don't believe me. Sorry, but my crying towel is bone dry.
And what's this about cheap motels near the airport? My experience has been that motel prices operate inversely to the distance from the airport!
I took an airline trip last week and followed the crew of a commuter airliner through security. Like most passengers, I find security to be an irritating, insulting and poorly thought out waste of time staffed by increasingly poorly trained and ill-tempered people, many of whom shouldn't be allowed to work with the public at all, never mind in a safety-critical occupation. I reluctantly recognize the need for gate security.
Lately, I've noticed that the TSA is supplementing its staff with contract employees; at a checkpoint in Raleigh, I counted six non-TSA workers whose people skills, it might generously be said, need work. As the airline crew threaded this unpleasant needle, it suddenly occurred to me that I have to suffer the indignities of pat-downs and belt removal only occasionally. Airline crews are subjected to it every day. And they shouldn't be. The airlines and TSA should devise an alternate, less intrusive and more efficient security system for aircrews. You may feel airline pilots are overpaid, underworked and now getting their just deserts, but they are still professionals. They deserve better.
Why does Capt Duisik think it is any more demeaning for a four striper to have to take off his shoes than it is for a high-level corporate executive, a self-made millionaire, or a mother traveling with young children and their associated carry on luggage to have to go through a hand-held screening search? A bad case of ego.
Richard T. Davidson
Not only are the airlines no fun for the pilots, they are no fun for the passengers.
The security screenings are a big farce designed not to find terrorists but to avoid profiling to keep from offending anyone.
My wife is searched twice each time we fly -- once at the checkpoint and once at the gate. She is a 59-year-old white American in a wheelchair from a spinal cord injury.
The picture sequences (NewsWire, Sep. 30) clearly show the left aileron down, trying to raise the left wing, But there is no rudder input at all. The aileron drag is aggravating the turn to the left and there is no right rudder! Does this person have a multi-engine license? Quick right rudder would have eliminated the need for any aileron input! The simple rule is if you have aileron input with an engine failure you do not have enough rudder input.