AVmail: February 24, 2014
Letter of the Week:
The Rest of the Story
The new rest rules do not cover cargo flights, nor do they cover foreign flights in U.S. airspace. But the basics should be that professional pilots take care of their bodies, including getting adequate rest.
Carriers give crew regulated rest periods, but unless the FAA wants the carrier to do hourly bed checks, then how can you guarantee they are sleeping or resting? Past accident accounts by the media want us to believe that it was the carrier's fault that a commuting-from-home-to-work pilot was not given enough rest. The carrier indicates when the pilot is to report to work, and a realistic expectation is that the pilot will be ready to take the bid assignment.
Everyone will occasionally have trouble getting enough rest. A pilot calling me indicating he or she could not get to sleep before the assignment was always given additional time off. But a pilot who habitually had a problem was offered an opportunity to change his or her career path in the company commensurate with his or her capability.
I flew Part 135 for more than 30 years. The duty time rules work as far as sleep and work go. If you want to do anything other than sleep or work, like have a life, there are issues.
Anything you do -- commute, eat, say hello to your wife and kids -- is subtracted from your sleep time. It's not a safety issue. Operators want to be safe. It's financial. A more reasonable schedule means more pilots, a higher crew cost, and a lower bottom line.
I was an FAA controller for 25 years, and anytime there was an air show, I and a couple of other controllers volunteered to do it. I never felt I was being taken advantage of, and we were treated great by the sponsors of show. I even got a ride in a P-51. We ate well and partied after.
Frankly, I am tired of hearing all the whining and negative comments about ATC charges for Oshkosh air traffic control services. I agree the smaller shows with minimal need for assistance should be free -- but Oshkosh?
That is nothing but a weeklong money-making cash cow for EAA. EAA gives attendees nothing free. In fact, the price of entry and of everything handled by EAA is too high and always going up.
EAA should pay the extra cost to the FAA for whatever services they agree to accept. It's just a small dent in the mucho profit machine that is EAA Oshkosh.
Everyone should be aware that there are a lot of legal questions to the subject of air traffic controllers controlling aircraft at any airport, but perhaps the biggest problem would be the Fair Labor Standards Act, which prohibits any employee from performing his or her job without compensation and payment for any overtime worked.
There may be some legal way around these problems, but as a retired controller I would have real concerns working on a voluntary basis with no liability protection.
Pilots Don't Breed Pilots
I've just finished reading Rick Durden's article "The New ATP -- A Brief Window Before the Sky Falls?" Now, this is no scientific study or a letter full of data, just an observation: I have a fairly large number of acquaintances that are airline captains (a number who are check pilots) for various airlines. Most are also true aviation enthusiasts. None will recommend to their children that they pursue the airlines as a career, and none have.
I think this pretty well sums up the future. Additionally, I have some physician friends who have retired earlier than planned due to government regulations. The only complaint that I have heard from my attorney friends is that there are too many in their profession. (Sorry, Rick). Does anyone see a pattern here?
Using the Tools
I know this has been beat to death lately, and I don't want to sound smug, but it's a bit close to home. Every time I see another blurb about this, I think to myself, "Was I the only guy whose instructor showed him how a VFR pilot can use an ILS as a handy reference for night landings?" If a 200-hour VFR pilot knows how to use the ILS to guarantee he's on the right runway, every time, what's wrong with these so-called professionals?
A VFR pilot is not authorized to fly solely by the instruments, but they refer to instruments all of the time (including radio nav aides). If what you see out the window doesn't jibe with the instruments, it's decision time. Trust your eyeballs, check with ATC, or just climb to a safe altitude and fly in circles until you get your stuff together.
Admitting that you may not be where you thought you were and figuring it out for certain sure seems like a far less embarrassing option than what our friends in the Boeings have exemplified.
If that DreamLifter crew that buzzed a quarter mile from my head on the north end of KAAO had questioned their approach on short final and did a go-around, they would have talked to the tower, figured out where they were, and then landed properly with no fuss and no pictures of their airplane in my camera. If they thought the glide slope at KIAB was a little high, shoot it a little low, but don't ignore it altogether!
I've got a friend who was shooting an instrument approach as PIC in a 757 and a crew member had dialed in the wrong nav frequency. On approach, he said something just seemed strange, so he broke off from the approach, started from square one, found the nav freq that was amiss, and landed uneventfully. Nobody was on the news, and nobody lost his job.
If you have a plane with the resources but don't know how to manage them, spend a few bucks with an instructor and learn how. Then you too can shake your head and wonder how these guys can make such silly, preventable mistakes.