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Ready For Takeoff - Turn Your Aviation Passion Into A Career

The Ready For Takeoff podcast will help you transform your aviation passion into an aviation career. Every week we bring you instruction and interviews with top aviators in their field who reveal their flight path to an exciting career in the skies.
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Ready For Takeoff - Turn Your Aviation Passion Into A Career
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Now displaying: November, 2019
Nov 28, 2019

TWA 514 crashed into terrain while attempting to land at Washington Dulles International Airport. from Wikipedia:

"The flight was being vectored for a non-precision instrument approach to runway 12 at Dulles. Air traffic controllers cleared the flight down to 7,000 feet (2,130 m) before clearing them for the approach while not on a published segment.

The jetliner began a descent to 1,800 feet (550 m), shown on the first checkpoint for the published approach. The cockpit voice recorder later indicated there was some confusion in the cockpit over whether they were still under a radar-controlled approach segment which would allow them to descend safely. After reaching 1,800 feet (550 m) there were some 100-to-200-foot (30 to 60 m) altitude deviations which the flight crew discussed as encountering heavy downdrafts and reduced visibility in snow.

The plane impacted the west slope of Mount Weather at 1,670 feet (510 m) above sea level at approximately 230 knots (265 mph; 425 km/h). The wreckage was contained within an area about 900 by 200 feet (275 by 60 m). The evidence of first impact were trees sheared off about 70 feet (20 m) above the ground; the elevation at the base of the trees was 1,650 feet (505 m).

The wreckage path was oriented along a line 118 degrees magnetic. Calculations indicated that the left wing went down about six degrees as the aircraft passed through the trees and the aircraft was descending at an angle of about one degree. After about five hundred feet (150 m) of travel through the trees, it struck a rock outcropping at an elevation of about 1,675 feet (510 m). Numerous heavy components of the aircraft were thrown forward of the outcropping, and numerous intense post-impact fires broke out which were later extinguished. The mountain's summit is at 1,754 feet (535 m) above sea level."

As a result of this accident, air traffic controllers now assign an altitude to fly until intercepting a segment of a published approach.

 

Northwest 6231 crashed after encountering an aerodynamic stall. From Wikipedia:

"The flight was chartered to pick up the Baltimore Colts in Buffalo after the aircraft originally earmarked to transport the team was grounded by a snowstorm in Detroit.

The Boeing 727-251, registration N274US, departed New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport at 19:14 for a ferry flight to Buffalo. As the craft climbed past 16,000 feet (4,900 m), the overspeed warning horn sounded, followed 10 seconds later by a stick shaker stall warning. The aircraft leveled at 24,800 feet (7,600 m) until it started to descend out of control in a spin, reaching a vertical acceleration of +5g. At about 3,500 feet (1,100 m), a large portion of the aircraft's horizontal stabilizer separated due to the high G-forces, making recovery impossible. Flight 6231 struck the ground in a slightly nose down and right wing-down attitude twelve minutes after take-off, at 19:26."

The accident board determined that the pitot heat had been inadvertently turned OFF prior to takeoff, and as the aircraft climbed through clouds the pitot tubes froze, causing altimeter effect on the airspeed indicator, in which an increase in altitude will cause indicated airspeed to increase.

On many aircraft today, the pitot heat will automatically be turned ON when the aircraft is airborne.

Nov 25, 2019

Mike "Sooch" Masucci has over 9000 hours in 70 different aircraft. He was accepted into the Air Force Academy, and took flying lessons while at the Academy and earned his Private Pilot certificate, and majored in Astronautics.

After graduation, he attended Undergraduate Pilot Training at Vance Air Force Base and then remained there as a T-38 instructor pilot as a First Assignment Instructor Pilot (FAIP).

After three years as a FAIP, Mike was selected to fly the U-2 high-altitude long-endurance airplane in the special duty assignment. He eventually became in an instructor in the U-2 as well as the T-38, while still being serving in deployments. His longest mission was 12 hours (13 hours in a space suit).

After 3 years he was selected to attend Test Pilot School, and then became a U-2 test pilot. After a few years as a U-2 test pilot during major aircraft upgrades, he returned to Test Pilot School, this time as an instructor. In that role he flew the T-38, the F-16, gliders and glider tow ships.

He again served in the U-2 and retired from the Air Force in that role.

He owned a 1946 Cessna 120 while in pilot training but - in Sooch's words - traded it in for an engagement ring. He now owns a 1964 Beechcraft Travel Air.

After the Air Force he flew a Citation X for several years, accumulating 750 hours every year in Part 135 operations. He did that for several years, then received a call from Virgin Galactic and was invited to apply.

He is multi-current, flying the White Knight as well as the space ship. Both aircraft have identical cockpit designs. Mike was selected to fly the second mission into space, and earned astronaut wings on February 22, 2019.

Nov 22, 2019

What is a Runway Incursion?

Any occurrence at an aerodrome involving the incorrect presence of an aircraft, vehicle or person on the protected area of a surface designated for the landing and take off of aircraft.

What is a Surface Incident?

A surface incident is an unauthorized or unapproved movement within the designated movement area (excluding runway incursions) or an occurrence in that same area associated with the operation of an aircraft that affects or could affect the safety of flight.

There are four categories of runway incursions:

Category A is a serious incident in which a collision was narrowly avoided.

Category B is an incident in which separation decreases and there is a significant potential for collision, which may result in a time critical corrective/evasive response to avoid a collision.

Category C is an incident characterized by ample time and/or distance to avoid a collision.

Category D is an incident that meets the definition of runway incursion such as incorrect presence of a single vehicle/person/aircraft on the protected area of a surface designated for the landing and take-off of aircraft but with no immediate safety consequences.

Nov 18, 2019

Juan Serrato came from an aviation family, and was immersed in flying from an early age. His father was a Vietnam era helicopter pilot, and took him flying often. Juan attended a school as a teenager where aviation was part of the academic curriculum, and earned his Private Pilot certificate.

After high school Juan attended A&P school, and then was hired servicing airplanes. He then entered an ab-initio program with Mesa Airlines, barely making the cutoff because he had 148 hours and the limit was 150 hours. While attending the program, he worked as a mechanic on aircraft.

He became a first officer on the Beech 1900 with Mesa as a US Air Express copilot. He flew as many as 13 legs per day. He flew the 1900 for a little over a year, then became a first officer in the RJ (regional jet). He flew the RJ for two years, then became an EMB 145 captain, flying his first trip on September 11, 2001. He was inflight when all aircraft were ordered to land immediately due to the national emergency. He landed at Raleigh, NC. He was stuck there for three days, until his girlfriend drove down to pick him up.

At Mesa, he became an accident investigator, on scene for a fatal accident investigation for the powerplant division. He also became a simulator instructor and line check airman.

After nine years at Mesa, he was hired by Gemini Air Cargo on the MD-11, flying all over the world. After about a year, the airline went out of business, and Juan was hired by Southern Air on the B747 as a first officer, flying freighters. He flew a lot of trips out of Ethiopia on a 20-on, 10-off schedule. After two years, he was furloughed as a pilot, but worked in their headquarters on documentation.

After five years with Southern, he was hired by Atlas Air, flying several versions of the 747, including the LCF (large cargo freighter). He was at Atlas for four years, then was hired by a legacy carrier, where he works now as a flight instructor on the B737.

Nov 15, 2019

A single personal electronic device with a lithium battery that overheats and catches fire in the cargo hold could potentially down a commercial airliner.

That’s what the US Federal Aviation Administration found in its latest research.

Regulators had originally thought that the fire suppressant systems in cargo holds would be able to extinguish flames if they were to arise from an overheated lithium-battery-operated device. However, the most recent study has shown that the systems don’t actually have the power to put out the flames caused by an overheated lithium battery, commonly found in laptops, cell phones and a wide range of other devices, when combined with other flammable substances, such as gas in an aerosol can or cosmetics.

“That could then cause an issue that would compromise the aircraft,” said Duane Pfund, international program coordinator at the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

The FAA forbids passengers from checking spare (uninstalled) lithium metal batteries, requiring them to be carried on. In addition, the FAA says that “all spare lithium batteries must be removed from the bag and kept with the passenger in the aircraft cabin,” when a carry-on bag is gate checked.

Lithium batteries are a type of rechargeable battery most commonly found in cell phones and laptops. Carrying them on board and in carry-on luggage doesn’t pose the same threat as if they were to be checked in the cargo hold. In the hold, bags — and therefore the potential fire — is not reachable, however, experience has shown that they can be extinguished with water, according to Bloomberg, and therefore, they’re more safe when flying in the cabin.

Bulk shipments of rechargeable lithium batteries are banned from passenger planes. However, the FAA hasn’t imposed any new restrictions on what passengers are allowed to check in their bags. In a notice to airlines in 2017, the FAA said they should consider conducting safety checks to determine what else could be done to prevent battery fires in the cargo hold.

“One way or another, we have to deal with these hazards,” said Scott Schwartz, director of the Air Line Pilots Association’s hazardous goods program.

The last few years have seen a string of incidents with batteries exploding in aircraft or near airports — including on a Delta aircraft, in a TSA checkpoint line and China Southern flight.

Nov 11, 2019

Smitty Harris was born in 1929 in Parkersburg, West Virginia. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force on January 2, 1951, and made Sgt before entering the Aviation Cadet Program on August 10, 1952. Harris was commissioned a 2d Lt and awarded his pilot wings in September 1953, and then completed advanced flight training in the T-33 Shooting Star and F-84 Thunderjet. His first operational assignment was as an F-86F Sabre pilot with the 45th Day Fighter Squadron at Sidi Slimane AB, French Morocco, followed by service as an instructor pilot at Greenville AFB and then with the 3306th Pilot Training Group at Bainbridge AFB, Georgia, from January 1956 to August 1960. Capt Harris then served as Chief of the Promotions and Flying Status Branch at Headquarters Air Training Command, Randolph AFB, Texas, from August 1960 to November 1962. His next assignment was flying F-100 Super Sabres and then F-105 Thunderchiefs with the 561st Tactical Fighter Squadron at McConnell AFB, Kansas, from November 1962 to November 1964. Capt Harris transferred to the 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Kadena AB, Okinawa, in December 1964, and began flying combat missions in Southeast Asia in March 1965. He was forced to eject over North Vietnam while flying his 6th combat mission on April 4, 1965, and was immediately captured and taken as a Prisoner of War. After spending 2,871 days in captivity, he was released during Operation Homecoming on February 12, 1973. Col Harris was briefly hospitalized to recover from his injuries at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, and then he remained at Maxwell to attend the Air War College there from August 1973 to August 1974. He remained on the faculty as Chief of Curriculum Planning until his retirement from the Air Force on July 31, 1979. After retiring from the Air Force, Smitty completed law school and joined the Mississippi Bar in December 1981. He and his wife Louise have three children. Smitty Harris was the 3rd Air Force pilot shot down and taken as a Prisoner of War during the Vietnam War.

His 2nd Silver Star Citation reads:

For the Period March 1968: This officer distinguished himself by gallantry and intrepidity in action in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force during the above period while a Prisoner of War in North VIetnam. Ignoring international agreements on treatment of prisoners of war, the enemy resorted to mental and physical cruelties to obtain information, confessions, and propaganda materials. This individual resisted their demands by calling upon his deepest inner strengths in a manner which reflected his devotion to duty and great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Nov 7, 2019

It has been estimated that 4-7% of civil aviation incidents and accidents can be attributed to fatigued pilots. "In the last 16 years, fatigue has been associated with 250 fatalities in air carrier accidents." Robert Sumwalt, NTSB vice chairman, said at an FAA symposium in July.

Symptoms associated with fatigue include slower reaction times, difficulty concentrating on tasks resulting in procedural mistakes, lapses in attention, inability to anticipate events, higher toleration for risk, forgetfulness, and reduced decision-making ability. The magnitude of these effects are correlated to the circadian rhythm and length of time awake. Performance is affected the most, when there is a combination of extended wakefulness and circadian influences.

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) study of 55 human-factor aviation accidents from 1978 to 1999, concluded accidents increased proportionally to the amount of time the captain had been on duty. The accident proportion relative to exposure proportion rose from 0.79 (1–3 hours on duty) to 5.62 ( more than 13 hours on duty). This means that "5.62% of human factors accidents occurred to pilots who had been on duty for 13 or more hours, where only 1% of pilot duty hours occur during that time." 

In another study by Wilson, Caldwell and Russell, participants were given three different tasks that simulated the pilot's environment. The tasks included reacting to warning lights, managing simulated cockpit scenarios, and conducting a simulated UAV mission. The subjects' performance was tested in a well-rested state and again after being sleep deprived. In the tasks that were not as complex, such as reacting to warning lights and responding to automated alerts, it was found that there was a significant decrease in performance during the sleep deprived stage. The reaction times to warning lights increased from 1.5 to 2.5 seconds, and the number of errors doubled in the cockpit. However, tasks that were engaging and required more concentration were found to not be significantly affected by sleep deprivation. The study concluded that "...fatigue effects can produce impaired performance. The degree of performance impairment seems to be a function of the numbers of hours awake and the 'engagement' value of the task." 

One United States Air Forces study found significant discrepancies regarding how fatigue affects different individuals. It tracked the performance of ten F-117 pilots on a high-fidelity flight simulator. The subjects were sleep deprived for 38 hours and their performance was monitored over the final 24 hours. After baseline correction, the systematic individual differences varied by 50% and concluded that fatigue's effect on performance varied drastically among individuals.

The first step to understanding the critical impact fatigue can have on flight safety is to quantify it within the airline environment. An airline's management often struggles to balance rest with duty periods because it strives for maximum crew productivity. However, fatigue comes as a limitation needing increasing consideration.

A study by Reis et al. investigated the prevalence of fatigue on a group of Portuguese airline pilots. 1500 active airline pilots who had all flown within the past six months received a questionnaire. Out of the population, 456 reliable responses were received. A pretest was conducted to determine the viability of the fatigue scale adopted during the test, called Fatigue Severity Scale (FSS). The purpose of the validation survey was to set a benchmark (i.e. FSS=4) on an acceptable level of fatigue for the Portuguese culture. The scale ranged from 1 meaning no fatigue to 7 being high. Participants had one month and a half to respond to the inquiry. Results on physical fatigue found that 93% of short/medium haul pilots scored higher than 4 on the FSS while 84% of long-haul pilots scored greater than 4. Mental fatigue found short/medium haul at 96% and long haul at 92%. The Questionnaire also asked: "Do you feel so tired that you shouldn’t be at the controls?". 13% of pilots said that this never happened. 51% of all participants said it happened a few times. Limitations of the study were: fatigue levels are subjective and research did not attempt to control the number of times pilots had available to respond to the questionnaires. Overall the study establishes that pilots are subject to high levels of fatigue on the job. Levels of fatigue collected were also compared with a validation test conducted on multiple sclerosis patients in Switzerland. These patients showed average fatigue levels of 4.6 while pilots in the Portuguese study scored an average of 5.3.

High prevalence of fatigue was also revealed in a study by Jackson and Earl investigating prevalence among short haul pilots. The study consisted of a questionnaire that was posted on a website, Professional Pilot’s Rumour network (PPRUNE) and was able to obtain 162 respondents. Of the 162, all being short haul pilots, 75% were classified to have experienced severe fatigue. Based on questionnaire results, the study also demonstrated that pilots who were highly concerned about their level of fatigue during the flight often scored higher on the fatigue scale and thus were likely to experience more fatigue. Not only this, operational factors, for example a change in flights, or from flight into discretionary time often cause the pilot to experience greater fatigue.

On the other hand, research by Samen, Wegmann, and Vejvoda investigated the variation of fatigue among long-haul pilots. 50 pilots all from German airlines participated in the research. As participants, pilots were subject to physiological measures pre-departure and during flight and filled out routine logs recording their times of sleep and awakening. Pilots also completed two questionnaires. The first reflecting feelings of fatigue before and after the flight, recorded before departure, 1-hour intervals during the flight and then immediately after landing. The second questionnaire was the NASA task load index.

The second questionnaire also administered during flight, assessed different dimensions including mental, physical and temporal demand as well as performance. Key findings from the study conveyed that: outgoing flights from the home base were rated as less stressful and night flights were rated as the most stressful. The physiological measures found that microsleeps recorded by the EEGs increased progressively with flight duty. Microsleeps are recordings of alpha wave activity and they occur during wakeful relaxation often resulting in loss of attention. They are considered microsleeps if they last less than thirty seconds. Microsleep cases for pilots on outgoing flights were half compared to the number on incoming flights back to the home base showing that fatigue is more prevalent on flights returning home. Pilots are more prone to microsleeps during the cruise phase of the flight while they are more alert and less likely to experience microsleeps during the take-off, approach and landing phases of the flight. Findings also show that fatigue was greater during night flights because pilots had already been awake for more than 12 hours and would begin duty by the time they were due to go to sleep.

Pilots often have to rely on self-assessment in order to decide if they are fit to fly. The IMSAFE checklist is an example of self-assessment. Another measure that a pilot can employ to more accurately determine his level of fatigue is the Samn- Perelli Seven Point Fatigue Scale (SPS). The evaluation has a scale of 1-7, 1 described as “Fully, Alert and Wide Awake” while 7 “Completely exhausted, unable to function effectively”.

All levels in between have descriptions aiding the pilot with his decision. Another example of self-assessment is simply a visual and analogue scale. The test is represented by a line with No Fatigue and Fatigue labeled on two ends. The pilot will then draw a mark where he feels to be. Advantages of self-assessment include that they are quick and easy to administer, can be added to routine checklists and being more descriptive allow pilot to make a better decision. Disadvantages include that it is easy for the pilot to cheat and are often hard to disprove.

Between 2010 and 2012, more than 6.000 European pilots have been asked to self-assess the level of fatigue they are experiencing. These surveys revealed that well over 50% of the surveyed pilots experience fatigue as impairing their ability to perform well while on flight duty. The polls show that e.g. 92% of the pilots in Germany report they have felt too tired or unfit for duty while on flight deck at least once in the past three years. Yet, fearing disciplinary actions or stigmatization by the employer or colleagues, 70-80% of fatigued pilots would not file a fatigue report or declare to be unfit to fly. Only 20-30% will report unfit for duty or file a report under such an occurrence.

Since the 1930s, airlines have been aware of the impact of fatigue on pilot's cognitive abilities and decision making. Nowadays prevalence of fatigue draws greater attention because of boom in air travel and because the problem can be addressed with new solutions and countermeasures.

  • Cockpit napping: A forty-minute nap after a long period of wakefulness can be extremely beneficial. As demonstrated in the Rosekind study, pilots who took a forty-minute nap were much more alert during the last 90 minutes of the flight and they also responded better on the psychomotor vigilance test (PVT) showing faster response rates and fewer lapses. The control group who had not taken a nap showed lapses during the approach and landing phases of the flight. In-seat cockpit napping is a risk-management tool for controlling fatigue. The FAA still has not adopted the cockpit napping strategy, however it is being utilized by Airlines such as British Airways, Air Canada, Emirates, Air New Zealand, Qantas.
  • Activity breaks are another measure found to be most beneficial when a pilot is experiencing partial sleep loss or high levels of fatigue. High fatigue coincides with the circadian trough where the human body experiences its lowest body temperature. Studies demonstrated that sleepiness was significantly higher for fatigued pilots who had not taken any walking breaks.
  • Bunk sleeping is another effective in-flight strategy. Based on the time zone pilots take-off from, they can determine which times during the flight they will feel inadvertently drowsy. Humans usually feel drowsier mid-morning and then mid-afternoon.
  • In-flight rostering involves assigning the crew to specific tasks at specific times during the flight so that other members of the crew have time for activity breaks and bunk sleep. This allows well-rested crew members to be used during the critical phases of flight. Further research will need to show the optimal number of crew members sufficient for a well rested operating crew to operate the flight safely.
  • Proper cockpit lighting is paramount in reducing fatigue since it inhibits the production of melatonin. Studies have shown that simply increasing lighting level to 100-200 lux improves alertness in the cockpit. 100 lux level is the same as room lighting and, therefore, would not affect a pilot’s night vision.
  • Although pilots are often given layovers with ample time to rest, the environment itself may not be favorable to achieve full recovery. The temperature may be too warm, the place noisy or the time zone change may not facilitate biological sleep. As a result, the use of over-the-counter drugs may be effective. Zolpidem is a well tested pharmaceutical compound with a half-life of two and a half hours and the drug is fully metabolized within 10 hours. It can be used to initiate sleep to help obtain a good rest. It must not be combined with any cockpit-naps. The drug also has no side effects, improving sleep quality without causing insomnia or any detrimental effects on next-day alertness. As pilots know, they must not have any amount of a drug present in their systems at the time they begin duty.
  • Implementation of a personal checklist to rate fatigue before a flight can aid the decision of whether a pilot feels he is fit to fly. The Samn-Perelli checklist is a good measure with a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 meaning "fully alert" and 7 meaning "completely exhausted and unable to function."
  • Implementation of fatigue prediction models, such as the Sleep, Activity, Fatigue, and Task Effectiveness model, optimize scheduling by being able to predict pilot fatigue at any point in time. Although the mathematical model is limited by individual pilot differences it is the most accurate existing prediction because it takes into account time-zone changes, time awake, and length of previous rest.
  • Sleep and fatigue monitoring: Using wrist-worn sleep monitors to track sleep accurately. Traditionally, sleep is tracked through personal estimation which is inaccurate. With this technology, regulators could implement operating restrictions or cautions for pilots with less than eight hours of sleep in the previous 24 hours.
  • In early 2007, the 201 Airlift Squadron of the District of Columbia Air National Guard (ANG), successfully integrated the Fatigue Avoidance Scheduling Tool FAST into its daily scheduling operations. This integration required the full-time attention of two pilot schedulers, but yielded valuable risk mitigation data that could be used by planners and leaders to predict and adjust critical times of fatigue in the flight schedule. In August 2007, the Air National Guard Aviation Safety Division, under the direction of Lt Col Edward Vaughan, funded a project to improve the user interface of FAST, permitting daily use by pilot schedulers and integration with automated flight scheduling software. This improved, user-responsive interface, known as Flyawake (FlyAwake.org), was conceived and managed by Captain Lynn Lee and developed by Macrosystems. The project cited empirical data collected in combat and non-combat aviation operations, and challenged the U.S. government's established policies regarding fatigue as a factor in degrading human performance.
Nov 4, 2019

Caroline Johnson was born and raised in Colorado Springs, CO, with her older brother, Craig and parents Marty and Nancy. Her childhood was full of skiing, hiking, biking and an array of team sports to burn her relentless energy. In high school she caught the travel bug and studied abroad in Germany, thriving in the foreign culture and absorbing as much of the experience as she could. After graduation, she traded the mountains and her skis, for the bay and a sailboat, as she embarked on the adventure of a lifetime in the Navy.

She began her military career at the United States Naval Academy in 2005, bristling against the strict rules and regimented life but loving the challenge and the friends she met along the way. Upon graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Economics in 2009, she joined the elite Naval Aviation community and began flight school in Pensacola, FL. In 2011, she was awarded her wings of gold and designated a Naval Flight Officer, more specifically an F/A-18 Weapons Systems Officer. Finishing at the top of her class she was awarded the Paul F. Lawrence award as the #1 strike fighter graduate and also recognized as the overall Top Graduate.

Caroline flew F/A-18 Super Hornets as a member of VFA-213 the World Famous Fighting Blacklions and she embarked on the USS George H.W. Bush, deploying for 9 months in 2014. On her historic deployment, Caroline and the Blacklions flew in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Inherent Resolve seeing action in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. Her squadron employed the first weapons on ISIS in Iraq, conducted the first ever US strikes into Syria, and Caroline was the first woman to neutralize ISIS from an F/A-18. At the Blacklions, Caroline completed her SFWT level II, III, and IV qualifications, she earned her Combat Mission Commander designation, and she also graduated with honors from the University of Oklahoma with a Master of Arts in Administrative Leadership.

During her final tour on active duty, Caroline returned to the United States Naval Academy, where she taught leadership and recruited the next generation of aviators as the Aviation Operations Officer. Currently in the Navy Reserves, Caroline continues her service as an advisor and liaison officer.

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