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Airport operators and flight schools in the Palm Beach, Florida, area are bracing for long-term economic loss and disruption due to the presidential TFR covering President Trump’s visits to his Mar-a-Lago resort. For the third weekend in a row, the presidential TFR covering Trump’s visit has shut down busy Palm Beach Country/Lantana airport and disrupted flight training and other prohibited general aviation activities. Although local authorities and advocacy groups have approached the Secret Service requesting a cutout or procedural relief, none has been forthcoming.

“Even though the tower at Palm Beach is willing to pick up the traffic and the TSA is willing to put some officers down here, the Secret Service has declined that. I don’t know whether that’s temporarily or permanently," said Jonathan Miller, who operates Stellar Aviation, the sole FBO on the airport. Lantana is located six miles south of Palm Beach International Airport and about 6.5 miles from the Mar-a-Lago Club, which is on a barrier island off the Florida coast.

The presidential TFRs have typically been two concentric rings, with an inner 10-mile ring and an outer 30-mile ring. All flight operations except scheduled airlines, law enforcement and related security operations are prohibited from the surface to 18,000 feet in the inner core. Limited operations are allowed in the outer core, to include departures and arrivals to area airports and, on an ATC-workload-permitted basis, transits through the area. All aircraft must be on VFR or IFR flight plans and must squawk a discrete transponder code. For aircraft operating into Palm Beach, gateway airports for TSA clearing have been established at Orlando, Dulles, Teterboro and Westchester County, New York.

Miller told AVweb that Lantana, which has five flight schools, has been shut down for the past three weekends and the impact on business has been devastating. He said the airport hosts 20 commercial businesses, about a dozen of which are large operators. Miller described the five flight schools as “very busy.”

In a preliminary economic analysis presented to Palm Beach County, Miller estimated losses for operators for just one weekend to total about $30,000 and his losses for the year could reach $200,000. The second-largest flight school has already relocated and Miller anticipates that others will follow. “We are not large businesses. We are small businesses. Even these short-term losses have significant impacts to us. Far more concerning is the fact that these short-term losses cannot be sustained for subsequent TFRs without leading to the more serious and permanent long-term losses,” Miller said in his report to the county.

Other airports outside the inner core have been less impacted according to checks AVweb made last weekend. However, aircraft displacements have proved disruptive. For example, many private jet operations have moved off Palm Beach International to Boca Raton, 20 miles south of Palm Beach. This has crowded the ramp, leaving less room for light aircraft parking and operations. Weekend flight training from other airports into Pompano Beach, Boca Raton and North Palm Beach Country has also been impacted.

During President Barrack Obama’s terms, airports in Hawaii were similarly impacted when he vacationed there, albeit less frequently than Trump has visited Florida. Airport operators, flight schools and tour businesses were eventually able to work out a security arrangement with the Secret Service to continue flying. Florida operators are trying to do the same, but so far, the Secret Service has been unreceptive. AOPA says it has requested a meeting with the FAA to propose a TFR that would put Lantana in an airspace cutout, similar to what has been done elsewhere. No date for the meeting has been set.


Sonic booms rattled the southeast coast of Florida Friday evening as two F-15s were scrambled to intercept an aircraft that violated presidential restricted airspace over West Palm Beach. The fighters had to hit the afterburners to catch up to the unidentified “general aviation aircraft” after taking off from Homestead Air National Guard Base, about 100 miles south of President Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago resort. The aircraft was detected in the TFR and did not respond to radio calls. The F-15s got the pilot’s attention and communication was established.

Although the F-15s are fully armed, their mission is to talk, not shoot. The supersonic dash got the fighters to the intercept before the aircraft got dangerously close to the resort. "The intent of military intercepts is to have the identified aircraft re-establish communications with local FAA air traffic controllers and instruct the pilot to follow air traffic controllers' instructions to land safely for follow-on action,” NORAD said in a statement. The booms triggered hundreds of calls to 911 from area residents.

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U.S. Navy Rear Adm. DeWofl Miller showed little enthusiasm for trading F/A-18 Super Hornets for F-35s, as has been proposed by President Trump in an effort to reduce the total program cost of the F-35 Lightning. Testifying at a House Subcommittee hearing on the F-35 program, Miller said, “The F-35C provides unique capabilities that cannot be matched by modernizing fourth-generation aircraft.” The F/A-18 first flew in the late 1970s. In the same hearing, Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, head of the F-35 program, reminded Subcommittee members of a looming acquisition “death spiral”—wherein reduced quantities result in unpalatable unit costs—that could arise if purchase quantities of the F-35 are reduced.

Boeing believes a “Block 3” Super Hornet incorporating conformal fuel tanks, improved sensors and electronic warfare capability could be delivered in the early-2020s, according to reporting by Aviation Week. Secretary of Defense James Mattis has directed the F-35 program office to work with the Navy and report back on whether President Trump’s suggestion of buying F/A-18s is capable of reducing acquisition costs at similar levels of mission capability, says Bogdan. That report will have to decide what an upgraded Super Hornet would do, what it would cost and when it would be ready. Answers to those questions remain up in the air.

(Photo credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen)

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President Donald Trump said Saturday he’d personally negotiated a $1 billion reduction in the $4.2 billion cost of the replacement aircraft for Air Force One and accomplished it in less than an hour. He also told a campaign rally in Melbourne, Florida, that the 25 percent discount is “not good enough. We’re still not going to do it. The price is still too high.” Boeing spokesman Todd Blecher told AVweb only that “discussions with the Trump administration are ongoing” in an email response late Saturday. “We look forward to finding a way to affordably provide the military with the capabilities it needs,” he said. At the rally, with one of the heavily modified Boeing 747-200 aircraft that now serve as Air Force One in the background, Trump said the $4.2 billion deal will not fly, at least not with him on it. “I said no way. I said I refuse to fly in a $4.2 billion airplane. I refuse,” he told the rally.

Trump also questioned the need for two identical aircraft to fill the role but he didn’t address the question of redundancy and seemed to suggest that he could further reduce the price by dropping one of the airframes. “Why they need two planes, we'll have to talk about that, but they have two planes, but we've got that price down over a billion dollars,” he told the crowd. He also took credit for reducing the cost of the next intake of 90 F-35 fighters and for getting the program as a whole on track. “You've been reading about it because it was a disaster,” he said. “Under the last administration. A disaster. And now we have it running beautifully.”

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A Long Island pilot was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries Sunday morning after his Piper Arrow went down in a residential area of Bayonne, New Jersey. George Pettway, 56, of Wheatley Heights, reportedly radioed that he was having some kind of difficulty while flying near the Statue of Liberty and headed for the Jersey side. Bayonne Police spokesman Lt. James Donovan told the New York Daily News that Pettway said the aircraft had experienced some kind of mechanical failure. The aircraft is registered to Airborn Flight Services, of Farmingdale.

According to various local reports Pettway made a last-minute turn to avoid hitting a gas station and ended up inverted on a sidewalk, hitting several cars along the way. A piece of the plane went through the front doors of the gas station but none of the three people inside was hurt. No one in the cars was hurt but the vehicles were heavily damaged. The aircraft took down power lines and they remained live, creating a hazard for bystanders and emergency crews. The pilot was trapped inside the wreck and had to be cut out by first responders. He was reported to be alert and in stable condition at a local hospital.

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The world’s largest manufacturer of drones and the biggest organization of remotely piloted aircraft operators have announced a joint venture to promote safe operation and expand opportunities for drone operators. DJI, which makes the popular Phantom series and other drones, and the Academy of Model Aeronautics will create programs aimed at boosting accessibility and affordability of personal drones, offer online support for pilots and develop youth programs steering young people toward aviation and technology careers. "Safe operations in the national airspace are of the upmost importance to the AMA," said AMA Executive Director Dave Mathewson. "This cooperative effort will further those safety efforts as we build educational programs for those planning to use DJI products...”

DJI said the partnership with AMA creates a mutually beneficial environment where safety, responsibility and new opportunities are nurtured. "Recreational and educational operations are a key source of innovation in technology, and model aviation in particular inspires many to pursue careers in sciences, robotics, aviation and beyond,” said DJI GM Ryan Tong. In addition to public outreach, the two will cooperate on promoting the AMA Public Safety course, which teaches public safety employees how to use drones in their work.

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An Aspen, Colorado, man is suing the pilot and passenger in an L-39 that hit power lines over a highway in 2015, saying he gripped the steering wheel of his car so tightly he’s had chronic pain in his hands ever since. Stephen Centofanti also claims the noise from the low-flying jet trainer as it powered out of De Beque Canyon, near Grand Junction, has caused permanent ringing in his ears. The aircraft, flown by Brian Evans, tore through the canyon at 250 knots at about 100 feet AGL and hit several large power lines, which fell on cars on the interstate highway below. In the rear seat was Raymond Davoudi, who is also named in the suit, along with various businesses associated with the Czech trainer.

Despite damage to the wing, vertical stabilizer and nose cone, Evans was able to land safely in Grand Junction. The NTSB did not directly investigate the incident but Evans wrote a report in which he reportedly said he didn’t see the power lines. The NTSB noted the lines were marked on VFR charts and said the probable cause was the “pilot's inadequate preflight planning and subsequent failure to remain clear of power line wires while maneuvering at low altitude.” Evans is a former Marine Corps pilot who says on his LinkedIn profile that he was a “contract tactical pilot” at the time of the accident.

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ExpressJet Airlines led major U.S. carriers for 2016 in highest percentage of bags lost. According to Department of Transportation statistics, ExpressJet received reports of mishandled baggage from 0.43% of all passengers—91,383 bags—which was down from their 2015, also industry-leading, loss rate of 0.51% of passengers reporting bags mishandled. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Virgin America received roughly one-quarter as many reports per passenger carried. Southwest mishandled the largest number of bags in total, but also flew the most passengers of any U.S. airline in 2016.

ExpressJet also led major U.S. carriers for 2016 in highest percentage of passengers forced to deplane. The same Department of Transportation Air Travel Consumer Report shows 1.51 passengers out of every 10,000 was bumped from an ExpressJet flight in 2016. Compared to ExpressJet, passengers on Hawaiian Airlines were 30 times less likely to get bumped from their flights last year. ExpressJet’s forced deplanement rate for 2016 was down from 1.86 per 10,000 passengers in 2015.

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It’s probably even money that every pilot who has flown more than 40 hours has awakened in a cold sweat after having had a takeoff nightmare—trying to get performance out of an airplane that is barely in the air, unwilling to climb and rushing toward something tall and menacing.

It's even worse when you're awake and it's happening for real: You’re in a loaded airplane that has been reluctant to leave the runway and now is not showing any interest in climbing over the trees. How did you get there and what can you do about it?

Too many pilots have asked themselves that compound question just before discovering that the answer to the second half is "nothing.”

The answer to the first half of the question is more complex. When takeoff accidents are reconstructed the striking result is too often that had all things been working normally, the pilot used all of the available runway and the airplane wasn’t over gross weight, it should have cleared the obstruction. So, what's going on?

Let's take a look at a real-world example—some details have been changed to protect the guilty. We've been flying a couple hundred pounds over gross in the Saratoga HP pretty steadily because, with full fuel, it can only carry two big people and their luggage. We've been putting the spouse and the two kids in and getting away with it. But the kids are getting bigger and one kid really, really wants to bring a friend on this trip. We rationalize: If a couple hundred pounds over gross is OK, what's another 150 pounds? Except that this trip is to that resort where the runway is 3000 feet long while home base has 5000 feet. And the resort is at an elevation of 2500 feet. And it's the 4th of July weekend and, because our Sunday-morning departure for home got delayed so the kids could swim one more time, it's now Sunday afternoon and 95 degrees F. Density altitude is way up there and one of the brakes is dragging enough that it takes 1200 rpm to taxi instead of 1000. And, oh, yeah, fuel is cheap here at the resort, so we filled up.

We go charging down the runway, vaguely aware that things are not happening as quickly as they usually do. We can see the far end of the runway, but the foreshortening effect of distance makes it nearly impossible to accurately estimate how much is left. We make a fast power check: Manifold pressure, rpm and fuel flow are where they should be. Should we have leaned the mixture? The midfield taxiway intersection goes by and we're looking at less than 40 knots on the airspeed indicator. The idea of aborting the takeoff flashes to mind but the sound of the engine going from high power to idle will get the attention of everyone on the airport, so we'll be admitting to everyone in earshot that we screwed up. Plus, we're not sure we can stop on the remaining runway and it rained hard last night, so it's going to be muddy off the end and getting stuck will really be embarrassing—and maybe we won't get pulled out of the muck in time to leave today and we've got to be at work tomorrow and the spouse is going to raise the roof over how much it costs to fly if we can't even use the airplane to get home on time and oh man this one is going to be tight and gawd! there's the end of the runway, there's no room to stop, we gotta go. We pull on another notch of flaps because we think that obstacle-clearance climb requires two notches but we haven't looked that up recently and we're off the ground right near the end of the runway and find that override switch right now so we can get the gear up and is best angle 85 or 95? Those trees are right here! Right now! And we're gonna hit and it's gonna hurt. . .

Hitting trees flying at 85 knots hurts. A lot. It hurts a lot more than hitting them while rolling at 20 knots after having the good sense to abort a takeoff that isn't going well. The forces we face in an impact are a squared function: When we double the speed of the impact, we don't double the force of the impact—we quadruple it. That's a nasty, hard, unbending rule of physics.

We will probably be embarrassed if we hit the trees at 20 knots after an abort. We probably won't be embarrassed if we hit those trees 3/4 of the way to the top flying at 85 knots. Or at least, not for very long—we have to be alive to be embarrassed.

To Abort: Perchance to Live

The airlines and military have long recognized that most pilots are successful, goal-driven, obsessive perfectionists who view mistakes as hideous things. As a result, they teach pilots that aborting a takeoff is not a mistake. They teach that, on every takeoff, there are things that must happen for the takeoff to continue. If those things don't happen, there is something wrong with the airplane and it is the pilot's job to save the day by aborting, even if it means going off the end of a runway, because the chances of survival go way up as the speed of impact goes down.

I think the mindset of being spring-loaded to abort a takeoff if certain parameters are not met and that the hero-pilot is there to keep the airplane from killing everyone by aborting is a way to keep on living. It's a little like NASA's approach to launching a rocket: The default answer to the question of whether to launch is "No"—it is up to the hardware, software and humans to demonstrate that everything is working properly so that the question may be answered with a "Yes." For an airplane takeoff, the default should be "abort" unless the airplane demonstrates that it is healthy enough to continue.

Killer Factors

Let's look at the things that can cause an airplane to crash on takeoff and see if there are any warning signs for the pilot so we can come up with parameters to be met before we let a takeoff continue.

Gross Weight.

It's a choice made by the pilot. A 10-percent increase in the weight of the airplane increases the distance over an obstacle by 21 percent—that's worth a pilot's undivided attention and respect.

Intersection Takeoffs.

Do we really want to make one? Is it that important to save taxi time? In reading takeoff accident reports, it's interesting how often the pilot initiated the takeoff from an intersection. Is it an indication of other shortcuts the pilot is willing to take that cut into the margins on clearing that obstacle?

Predicted Performance.

Does the manual say the airplane will clear an obstacle in the available distance? If not, attempting to take off is stupid and may be criminal. Over some years of involvement in aviation lawsuits regarding takeoff performance, I've found that a properly maintained airplane will usually meet book takeoff performance, but it truly has to be properly maintained. The engine has to be developing full rated power; the prop has to be in good shape, the tires properly inflated and the brakes not dragging. I've also observed that airplanes picked at random for inspection usually have something that prevents them from matching book performance—anything from a heavily filed prop or the wrong prop to an engine not making power to low tires. So, I agree with the aviation writers and textbooks that recommend a pilot allow a margin above the book performance numbers for deciding on whether to make a takeoff.

Power Output.

In airplanes with a fixed-pitch prop, there is a way to get a good indication whether the engine and propeller combination are developing appropriate power. It's called a static runup. We taxi to a spot where the prop won't pick up all sorts of trash and the propwash won't cause damage. Then hold the brakes, pull the yoke or stick all the way aft and go to full power. The resulting rpm must be in the range published by the manufacturer in the manual. For example, for a Cessna 152, the acceptable rpm range is 2280 to 2380; for a Cessna 172N it is 2280 to 2400. If the rpm we see on the tach doesn't fall within the acceptable range, it's an automatic abort. Assuming the tach is accurate, if the rpm is too low, the engine is not making power or has the wrong prop or an improperly pitched prop. If rpm is too high, the prop may have been filed beyond limits, the tips may have been cut down too far, it may have the wrong pitch or be the wrong prop. All of those are reasons that the airplane will not perform per book on takeoff. For a constant-speed prop airplane, it is not as simple: the rpm should be at redline, but manifold pressure will depend on the density altitude, which means we have to do some homework to determine the max. manifold pressure attainable before doing a check.

Dragging Brake(s)/Low Tires.

Keep track of how much power it takes to taxi at your normal speed on flat, dry pavement in light winds. For most airplanes, it will run on the order of 1,000 rpm. If the power needed goes up by about 200 rpm, find out why before making a takeoff.

Proper Acceleration On Takeoff.

Here's the big one. There is a solid rule of thumb: The airplane will break ground in the available runway length if, by the half-way point of the runway, it has reached 71-percent of the published speed at which the nose is to be raised on takeoff. If the manual says to raise the nose at 60 KIAS, then we better be looking at a speed of at least 42 KIAS at midfield. If not, it's an automatic abort because a parameter has not been met. This go/no-go parameter does not guarantee obstacle clearance; it just gives information regarding getting off the ground on the available runway.


They are rare, but extremely ugly takeoff accidents—the ones due to locked or jammed controls or badly mis-set trim. While those should have been caught during the pretakeoff check, pilots still miss them and try to fly with the control-lock engaged, a jammed elevator control or the trim rolled all the way forward. The parameter is that when we go to raise the nose on takeoff, if the control wheel does not physically move aft when normal or slightly more than normal pressure is applied and the nose does not start coming up, a parameter has not been met, so abort the takeoff. This one will probably involve running off the end of the runway, but that is almost invariably better than trying to continue at high power.


For a takeoff abort, close the throttle instantly and make sure power is completely at idle, hold the control yoke/stick slightly aft of neutral and apply heavy braking to the point of sliding the tires. If you ever get a chance to ride with a test pilot on a max-brake-effort stop, it's an eye opener. Get on the brakes as hard as you can. If you slide the tires, back off a bit, but only a bit. Raise the flaps to put more weight on the wheels. Don't worry about calling the tower; you're busy. If you are going off the end of the runway and have the time, pull the mixture to idle cutoff, cut the master, turn the fuel selector off and pop the cabin door(s) open slightly. Keep trying to make the airplane go in the direction you want and keep trying to stop the airplane until it does come to a complete stop. Don't give up trying to make the airplane do what you want it to do.

Abort-Analysis Checklist

If we take the above and boil it down into an abbreviated mental checklist of parameters that must be met or we save the day by aborting the takeoff, we get something along the following lines:

Lineup Check

Are the trim tabs, flaps and fuel selector(s) properly positioned and does the mag compass reading match the runway number? If no, abort. If yes, continue.

Takeoff Roll

1. At full throttle, is the rpm is in the acceptable static range on a fixed-pitch prop airplane? With a constant-speed prop, are the manifold pressure, rpm and fuel flow where they should be for the elevation and temperature? For a turbocharged engine, are manifold pressure, rpm and fuel flow at redline? If not, abort. If yes, continue.

2. Airspeed indicator off the peg and moving without jerking within 5 to 10 seconds of going to full power? If no, abort. If yes, continue.

3. At the mid-field point on the runway, has the airplane reached at least 71 percent of the published speed for raising the nose? If no, abort. If yes, continue.

4. At the published speed for raising the nose for takeoff, can the yoke/stick be moved aft and does the nose begins to come up? If no, abort. If yes, continue.


It's up to the airplane to demonstrate to the pilot in command that it is capable of performing on takeoff. It's up to the pilot in command to assure that it is doing what it's supposed to do and, if not, to abort the takeoff and live to fly another time. Aborting a takeoff isn't a failure on the part of the pilot; it's a pilot showing the right stuff by recognizing the wrong stuff and taking action to keep people alive.

Rick Durden is a CFII, holds an ATP with type ratings in the Douglas DC-3 and Cessna Citation and is the author of The Thinking Pilot’s Flight Manual or, How to Survive Flying Little Airplanes and Have a Ball Doing It, Vols. 1 and 2.

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What the camera and teleprompter giveth, it can just as rapidly take away. That would be my salient observation from Harrison Ford’s recent dust-up at the Orange County Airport in California. You will not have missed, I’m sure, the story that Ford flew his Husky over the top of a stopped American Airlines 737 and followed that with a landing on a taxiway parallel to the runway he had actually been cleared to land on. Probably a perfect three pointer, too.

I’m less interested in dissecting the why of this incident than I am two other aspects: First, how to avoid such things in the first place and, second, what PR damage is done when a high-profile person like Ford gets involved in an accident or incident. This is the fourth such event for Ford and I’m sure that when EAA declared him to be a Living Legend of Aviation, they weren’t thinking of legendary exploits through the infinite variety of 91.13. But who among us hasn’t been in the barrel?

In aviation, we’re fond of using celebrities who fly as promotional vehicles for the industry. And why not? Ford has shown up to help promote various aviation causes and events and even though I’m not particularly wowed by famous people, I acknowledge that others are. If it sells avgas and flight lessons, I’m all for it. But I’m not particularly convinced such endorsements really achieve much.

The other edge of this blunt, rusty axe, however, is when said celebrity gets into a scrape, it gets a lot of press that, if not negative, isn’t exactly desirable, either. Scanning the hundreds of stories published of Ford’s Orange County incident, I see most of them are straight news, although a few determined reporters got sources to say this was much more dangerous than it in fact was and that he should turn in his certificates. Overreact much? Many news writers cut and paste the phrase that Ford is “an accomplished pilot” then in the very next sentence catalog the other mishaps he’s had.

To be honest, if celebrity promotion of aviation doesn’t do much to help, I don’t think something like this does much to hurt, either. It will spin out the news cycle by next week and we’ll be on to obsessing about President Trump’s palace intrigue.

As pilots, we know stuff like this happens every day, although not necessarily at Part 139 airports like John Wayne. We cover—we meaning AVweb—Ford because the mainstream media does and we have little choice to do otherwise lest we appear to be sandbagging. However, when I taxied the Cub into a Cirrus last Thursday and caused a fire that destroyed three airplanes, we didn’t cover it because I’m not a celebrity. OK, so that didn’t happen, but it could have. And we probably would have covered it because I’d have gotten good video and I’m all about the clicks. Viral gold is just one iPhone clip away.

The lemonade-from-lemons here is just for pilots. It gives bloggers like me grist to grind by pointing out that something like this is just as easily avoided as it is being something that can happen to any of us and probably has for anyone who has flown for many years. I’m sure other people a lot smarter than me will write thousands of words of theory to back up an analysis of why it happened to Harrison Ford. But I think it’s actually a lot simpler than that.

As wisdom seeps into my head despite my clinging to the maturity of a 17-year-old, I am less impressed with the complicated ways we sometimes employ to solve problems in aviation. One that comes to mind—and one I simply detest—is mnemonics like IMSAFE, which we blithely pass along like candy at Halloween. I can’t even remember what the damn letters are supposed to remind me of, so I don’t use it. Is it really just a diabolical short-term memory test?

I have become a big fan of OODA loops and have come to understand they work for everything. Years ago, I was taught this banal trick by a flight instructor named Ed Weber who checked me out in the first retractable I ever flew, a Mooney. Somewhere on final, he said, just say this to yourself: “Final landing check, the gear is down.” To this day, I still do that, usually out loud, and even in a fixed-gear airplane. Although we didn’t call it that then, that’s an OODA loop or perhaps a fragment of one.

What it does is this: It breaks up the target fixation we’re all capable of suffering when making decisions under duress—maybe it’s gusty, the radio is wall-to-wall, there’s a lot of traffic or the weather is low. To complete the desired task—say, landing—you naturally tune out all those distractions, but what also gets tuned out is reserve mental bandwidth to do error checking. In all but the most extreme of circumstances, the motor skills required to fly the airplane are baked in; you don’t need to think about it. That leaves a lot of surplus bandwidth to simply ask, “Have I forgotten anything?” All you need is some little trick to jar you loose from the closed loop of task fixation, a means to momentarily draw back and assess—the observe and orient part of OODA. Observe also means seeing the world as it is, not as you think it should be.  

Some years ago, when I visited the Navy’s LSO school in Norfolk, one of the instructors there mentioned to me something I’d heard several times. He said every LSO had some version of a “sugar call,” a magic word or two or a soothing tone meant to calm a pilot or snap him out of teeth-clenched tunnel vision focused on the deck, the AoA or some other distraction that should only be a piece of the whole picture, not the picture itself. “Final check, gear down” is my version of a self-generated sugar call. I’m sure you could devise your own or some other means of avoiding task fixation.  

Flying more helps, too. These days, some of us are lucky to see 60 hours a year when 100 would do wonders for proficiency. Head tricks like sugar calls and OODA loops may do only so much to avoid bending metal or landing on the wrong runway, but then again, sometimes all you can do is fix what you can with what you’ve got.


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On a recent trip to visit my inlaws,  I was passing by an airport on my way when I heard this exchange:

Cessna1234: Tower, Cessna 1234 is ready for takeoff.  

Tower: Cessna 1234 you are cleared for takeoff Runway 24. Say direction of flight.  

Cessna 1234: Cleared for takeoff Runway 24, Direction of Flight.  

Tower: Which way are you heading?  

Cessna 1234: Oh! Heading southeast.

Karl Vogelheim



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