AVmail: June 13, 2011
Letter of the Week: A Great Commute
I enjoyed the article about Gordon Boettger's flight.
While working at NASA JPL in Pasadena, CA and building my hangar and business in Fallon, NV for three years I commuted on many weekends between KWHP near Burbank, CA and KFLX, Fallon, NV.
I made about 100 round trips. At least half of them were direct GPS route which takes you right down the middle of the Sierra Nevadas. I would make it a point to always be about 2000' above the highest peaks I intended to fly over. I did them both day and night.
I made many of these trips up there when the wind over the Sierras was up to 65 Kts. FSS virtually always had a sigmet for moderate to severe turbulence below 18K'. I found that to be the exception rather than the rule. I would not be up there if there were lenticular clouds hovering over the mountains. And sometimes there was light turbulence. There was almost always some light wave action. I found that there were considerably more opportunities to fly up there in the winter months than in summer. Cold air seems to lay right down on the mountains. A couple of thousand feet above thre was virtually no turbulence.
I have never seen another airplane up there.
I have flown this trip in both my 0-360 powered Cruisair and my 0-360 powered Geronimo. And yes, you can soar a Geronimo up there sometimes. I have pulled it back to idle and enjoyed good lift for streches of up to maybe five minutes.
Try it; you'll like it.
Not the Airplane's Fault
Capt. Anonymous is again warming up the sidestick vs. yoke debate and also fixed thrust levers vs. moving thrust levers.
I have just a few remarks.
The most produced U.S. fighter has sidestick? How do they survive?
As for tactile feedback of moving thrust levers, [I] just read about the Turkish Airlines stall/crash at Amsterdam. Approaching an aerodynamic upset caused by unreliable airspeed indication the thrust levers in a "moving" design would have changed to some thrust lever angle and thrust would be either too high or too low. Only by sheer luck they would be appropriate. With this design also you have to remember your cruise thrust and attitudes to get into "survival mode."
He also does not mention that on the A330 moving thrust levers out of detent you can vary thrust like in any other airplane. The main problem in this accident seems to be that all three pilots never realized that they were in a stall. There are programs out there for upset training, etc. but cutting training (you never stall an airliner, and you never stall a GA airplane attaining PPL) the knowledge is only with few airline pilots — including instructors, unfortunately.
His airline seems even less keen on covering and training all aspects of the airplane. He does not remember if he as ever tasked with alternate law. If true, what a training department and what an oversight of the FAA.
From a professional standpoint, Capt. Anonymous only speculates on the actions of the pilots. Does he know more than the investigating authority? Citing simulator experience for these occurrences is naïve. Both big aircraft manufactures give only a certain (incomplete) amount of data for those regimes — either because they want to keep proprietary information from the simulator company or because it is just simply not necessary to test those regimes for certification under FAR 25.
Blaming the sidestick seems easy. He just forgets that with ?conventional? airplanes valid IAS is often needed for pitch (feel) control, attaining the correct stick force gradient or rudder ratio limiter. For some of these failures you revert to a dumb spring and are also away from known stick (yoke) forces or rudder forces. Giving advice to fly the FD is to my knowledge against both of Airbus's and Boeing's abnormal/ non-normal checklists for this situation.
Last, but not least: Capt. Anonymous's description of himself as one of the most experienced A330 pilots in the world is a little out of reality. What makes him believe that? There are hundreds of pilots out there, some of them flying the A330 for almost 20 years, many of them cross qualified on the A320/321 who have more than three times the hours he claims. If he is so frightened by Airbus airplanes, how about changing to an airline flying only Boeing? Hundreds of pilots would love take his seat and be delighted.
I have 30 years of flying Boeings and eight years on Airbus. I love the airplanes of both companies.
A. J. "Toni" Beidl
I am an Atlanta native and remember Delta's beginnings. Its emphasis then was on customer service and achieved a great record by treating its employees well, so well that for many years the people there rejected unionization.
Then the "bean counters" gained power, and company/personnel relations suffered. They unionized, and the company developed the callous attitude toward its customers demonstrated by its treatment of the 34 soldiers described in this issue. I am continually saddened by Delta's history.