AVmail: June 4, 2012
Letter of the Week: Emergency Kit
Regarding your "Question [of the Week]" about emergency equipment: The first plan of emergency preparedness takes place prior to lift-off. Check the weather, including winds aloft, general forecast, detailed forecast, long-range forecast, icing conditions and the list goes on.
File a flight plan. Use flight following. If mountain flying is encountered (which one should know beforehand) when planning a trip, go around. Gas and time are cheap compared to death. Stay away from those mountain peaks if at all possible, day or night. They're fun to look down on and fly next to but can kill you via mountain wave, winds, storms, up and down drafts, icing, etc.
Use common sense. Don't get get there-itis. Think SDPTC (Slow Down, Plan, Think, Calculate).
Do an honest weight-and-balance. By the way, none of the above adds weight to the aircraft.
Have cell phones charged, buy a tracking device or personal locator, have first aid supplies on board and prepared meals. Have cold weather gear, emergency signal devices and emergency supplies.
Be prepared for the worst-case scenario. Brief all crew on emergency protocol, who hits 911 on Spot, etc. Everyone should have a responsibility during an emergency and know it.
Remember to dial 911 on cell phone if going down and leave the line open. Don't worry about talking unless you have time -- and, lastly, stay calm!
Lt. James G. Feiler
Wyoming Civil Air Patrol
Do I carry a survival kit? Yes, but not one that fits the multiple choice answers to your "QOTW." Mine varies depending on mission, terrain and weather. There's the small kit always, and the more elaborate wilderness survival kit that I augment with water or winter gear or other things depending on where and when I go.
I am an experienced backpacker and have confidence that I can survive if not badly injured. Therefore, I carry survival tools, such as a fire starter, wire saw, and water filter. I don't carry food or fuel.
When I fly over water, I carry a survival kit and raft. When I fly aerobatics (most of my flying), no kit.
I carry different equipment for each flight but always a warm coat in the cabin. I carry more clothing and water if I'm over unfriendly terrain and, of course, personal PLBs and life jackets if over water.
I live in Alaska, and I always fly prepared to spend a night or two out in the bush. I always fly with a good sleeping bag for each person and a satellite phone with me. Each person in my plane has a small knife and a lighter before we leave.
I know the survival situation in my flying area. I've thought about a survival vest, but the 406 MHz ELT is more important.
Three people over the mountains of Idaho is a full-performance flight in a 172 -- and that's without the concerns of weather and icing.
Survival gear appropriate to the mission may have tipped the scales in favor of the pilot remaining on the gravel strip he so wisely found as a refuge before he miscalculated and departed into the weather that was to ultimately bring down the airplane.
A night spent sleeping rough in a 172 is not going to be remembered as the best night's sleep, but they'd have lived to tell the tale of an impromptu camping trip instead of surviving a crash.
Survival gear doesn't have to be fancy. You dress yourself according to the terrain over which you will fly -- like boots instead of sandals. To the airplane, you add a couple of old blankets, a pocket knife, a fire-starter, a bottle of water and a few granola bars. A handheld VHF or PLB would have been a bonus.
We don't know what survival gear was on board that airplane, but these few items may have lessened the pressure the pilot likely felt to continue the flight despite the conditions.
Regarding your "Question [of the Week]" about extreme stunts: In an age of Jackass TV and endless YouTube videos, what could possibly be too reckless?
I hope nobody would seriously want to ban the attempt of any new idea, no matter how crazy it may sound, as long as reasonable precautions are taken as were done for this. Bans would stifle innovation and the advancement of ideas.
I once heard that many years ago someone said something like, "Man will never be able to travel faster than about 35 MPH, and any attempt to do so would be lunacy, as everyone knows the vibrations would kill you!" Imagine if the world had listened to that talk and passed laws to prevent attempts.
Drive To The Airport
Regarding your "Question [of the Week]" about vehicles pilots drive: It's a mostly male population -- sharp, ambitious, ready to take on anything that comes along. That smacks of a customer who is the perfect candidate for an SUV or pickup.
In seeing the huge percentage of American vehicles reported on the survey, I doubt very many, if any, are sedans. That's the same with the other makes. I drive a BMW SUV, of course! I'd bet if the question were asked, a huge percentage of the respondents drive something other than a sedan.
I drive a 2012 Nissan Leaf battery electric vehicle. It's all-electric. I couldn't use gas if I wanted to! I am totally offsetting the 1,500 liters (400 gallons) or so of flying that I manage annually. It's a great car with 200 km range on a good day, 100 km on a cold rainy night.
No car. Motorcycle.
I own a Citation jet, but no car. I live in the inner city of Berlin and never saw the need to subject myself to traffic jams and parking hassles. Getting to the airport is just as fast by train, and I can read NOTAMs and weather on the way.
I drive a battered 1963 GMC pick-up truck; no a/c, no power steering, no power brakes. No smog checks either! A pilot has to get his priorities right.
I drive an American truck, a 2003 F150 with 202,000 miles.
Dee Ann Ediger
You should have asked what nameplate you drive, as my Honda (Japanese nameplate) is made in Ohio, so I say it qualifies as American more than a Chrysler product made in Mexico or a GM product made in Canada.
Cell Phones on Airliners
I think cell phone use on airlines is a mixed bag to be sure. While it would be convenient to be able to stay in touch with those on the ground, maybe cell phone use should be limited to texting while seated in an airliner so that others don't have to put up with the inevitable rude, long-winded, and/or loud seat mate, and then, for a small fee, have a soundproof "phone booth" available for those who feel they absolutely have to talk.