Top Letters And Comments, October 4, 2019


On Ash Scattering

I enjoyed your article on ash scattering. I too was asked to scatter the ashes of a dear friend. A few weeks earlier there was a fatal ash-scattering mission in an adjoining state. It was fortuitous for me to read about it before my ash-flight. The 4-person crew was lost when they opened the window and attempted to disperse the ashes similar to your “don’t do this” description and carburetion reference. The ashes blew back into the plane and apparently blinded everyone aboard, including the pilot. Not wanting to follow in those now deceased footsteps, I asked around local airports and the tip that made the best and safest sense to me and worked perfectly 2 different times was to get a 4′ long piece of 3″ diameter PVC plastic pipe and BEFORE the flight you thoroughly duct tape the open end of the plastic bag containing the cremains to the end of the PVC pipe that stays in the airplane. A high winged plane is an advantage.

Once you are in position over the disbursement area and have slowed the aircraft down to an appropriate and safely manageable speed based on elevation and winds and bank angles, your securely seat-belted right front seat passenger simply opens the plane’s door, puts the open end of the PCV pipe out the bottom rear corner of the door so it extends 2′ – 3′ below the door into the slip-stream and coax the ashes into the tube. Voila. Since the plastic bag of cremains is already well duct taped to the PVC pipe there is little or no chance of ashes going in the wrong direction.

For an especially lovely and visually inspiring send off, you can (if possible) locate any on-the-ground viewers so the sun is behind the aircraft when you disperse the ashes and they will see the backlit ashes plume and seemingly sparkle in the sunlight. Quite a profound and memorable sight.

Since we are at nearly 7000′ elevation, and even higher mountains are a typical ash scattering request, extra care is required for maximum safety for all so you don’t prematurely become a member of the “dearly deceased” club.

Disclaimer: Do this at your own risk.

Jim O.

Collings Foundation B-17 Crash

I’m old enough to remember when a privately-owned Sabre Jet crashed into a Sacramento ice cream parlor in 1972. California immediately forbade the operation of private military jets in the state. The GA community was upset, but it exercised restraint. The subsequent investigation revealed glaring deficiencies in the training, oversight and type certification of some warbird operators. That these issues were addressed in a timely manner is the reason we continue to enjoy warbird demonstrations four decades later – including in California.

Today it may be time to take another look at warbird revenue operations. Their designers expected a third of these airplanes to be lost in combat and, maybe, 20% to be lost in accidents. There was a war in progress and getting them off of the drawing board and into the theater was the most urgent requirement. None of the heavier designs remotely meets contemporary certification standards.

Kim H.

Firstly – let’s be clear about the human factor – it is a tragic loss of life. No one WANTS to be there – however fully or peripherally involved. Heart goes out to all touched by this event.

I’ve flown with the Collings Foundation – though not in 909 – in one of their P-51’s. I was briefed, understood clearly and assumed my share and responsibility of accepting risk. In return an opportunity to fly an iconic warbird. Some risk mitigation you have to take on faith (plane in annual, preflight by someone more experienced in the mark than you). Other risk mitigation – you are still able to assume. How well does the pilot look me in the eye, how firm is the handshake, do they sound competent, does the cockpit drill look good. You can call “stop” right up to the hold short. After that – welcome to life.

There WILL be more danger this morning attempting to make a left turn across speeding traffic out of our condo onto the main road trying to get to work – than crossing the hold short and taking off on 04 at my airport three miles down the road. I can mitigate it somewhat by turning right and going a half mile out my way down to the right and getting turned around there. Some mornings I do. But if I want to go to work – I have to get on the road.

No one wants what happened to have happened. But such is life and as soon as the weather breaks, I will take my plane flying. I’ll accept the risk there too after I’ve done everything I can to mitigate it.

Put them in a museum? There are plenty there. They will sit, unable to be boarded and looked at, where you will be unable to see and touch and taste and smell and begin to get the slightest inkling and glimmer of comprehension as to what it was like to fly and fight one. No way! Put them on the ramp to be crawled over and keep them flying.

Graeme S.

I’m of the opinion that rare or historically significant airplanes should be parked. They’re too important to be flying. Sad story to be sure. I think I heard 7 perished? I’m sure there’ll be a lot of info coming out now and the ‘boys’ will be giving us all some extra ‘help,’ too.

Larry S.

Poll: Is the NTSB Right to Highlight the Hazards of Multiple Cockpit Alarms?

  • Absolutely yes. Airbus driver here. I don’t need to have multiple bells going off just when I’m trying to secure flight path first. 99% of all airline training effort is about training the pilot to not respond to the bells and whistles and not to rush into the ecam/eicas checklist and to fly ‘er first.
  • Yes. Boeing created the concept of the “quiet, dark cockpit”. This is also emphasized in FAR 25.1322 and AC 25.1322.
  • Clearly, more human factors analysis is needed to assess the potential for confusing multiple annunciations.
  • It definitely needs to be studied. Extensive automation has a subtle effect of eroding one’s perceptions and ability to react quickly to a situation. Alarm saturation has been a serious problem in industrial plants for years as control system automation has increased. The same is true of aircraft cockpits, when most flying is done by the autopilot.
  • Yes, pilots are NOT trained to deal with the complexity of cascading, conflicting alarms from essential for flight instruments/displays.
  • The problem is not so much multiple alarms as the removal of the pilot from what’s happening with too much automation.
  • Bringing this issue up as something that should be considered as a part of the design and certification processes is a necessary step. Some method of prioritizing alarms and eliminating contradictory warnings is worth pursuing further, but it’s worth noting that giving consideration to these problems is something that has been taking place all along. Workable solutions to the problem of contradictory indications or warnings is an ongoing challenge as the human/machine interface continues to evolve over time. Certainly, any reduction in the potential for distraction or confusion in the pointy end would be welcomed by pilots of aircraft equipped with warning systems.
  • The “video game” mentality of aircraft designers must change back to a safety-oriented mentality. Minus that, all we’re doing is waiting for the next smoking hole. This whole thing is a shameful slap to all that has come before.
  • Didn’t hear the question – too many alarms.
  • Yes, particularly when the alarms are conflicting and not actually indicative of what’s actually going on.
  • This would have been easier to answer if the pilots knew about MCAS!
  • It is more an issue of pilot quality.
  • Needs careful evaluation of options driven by human factors, not blanket condemnation.
  • Yes, but they should also be highlighting the hazards posed by poorly trained pilots.
  • Time to transition to remote pilot control mode i.a.w the pending SWIM program.
  • Someone has to do it and it seems we can’t rely on the current infrastructure as much as we thought. It’s a mess.
  • Yes, with priority for the type and importance.
  • We all learn from incidents/accidents and the approved data will enhance our knowledge with industry experiences.
  • They should concentrate on ensuring that well trained pilots with at least reasonable airmanship skills are in the cockpit. The MCAS accidents’ tragic endings were due to poorly trained and incompetent pilots.
  • Yes, modern cockpits are more complex and modern training standards and pilot experience is inadequate especially in rapidly developing nations.
  • Use Drone AC.
  • Yes, but the statement “modern cockpits are complex enough” is a meaningless statement. Appropriate new technology is good. Naturally, there will be complexity to it and just labeling something “complex,” again, is simplifying in an inappropriate way. Technology needs to be associated with an equal level of a “response system” that support the complexity associated with an increased beneficial technology leap.

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