Today’s Flight Plan
Have you ever wanted to have upgraded flight simulator visuals, but not sure where to start? How about virtual reality, head tracking, a curved ultra-wide monitor, projector, or connected multiple monitors? There are many ways to do it. I talk about the present and future, and how you can get your hands on some of these upgrades.
Then we get into Learning from Accidents. The truth is, accidents happen. Some day as a pilot, you may be faced with an emergency as well. We talk about some very recent accidents, and ways you can prepare yourself for the undesired. Just remember, PLAN-B! (You’ll learn what PLAN-B means)
Major thanks to the amazing Angle of Attack Crew for all their hard work over the years. Our team works incredibly hard, and they’re very passionate about what they do.
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And equal amount of thrust and brains, this is AviatorCast episode 43.
Calling all aviators, pilots and aviation lovers, welcome to AviatorCast, where we close the gap between real aviation and flight simulation. Climb aboard, buckle up and prepare for takeoff. Here’s your host, Chris Palmer.
Chris: Welcome, welcome, welcome aviators. You’ve landed at AviatorCast. My name is Chris Palmer. From simulated flight to the feeling of actual flight, I’m fascinated by flying things. Being suspended in the air and the feel of speed beneath is something I can’t get enough of. I’m the founder and owner of Angle of Attack, a flight simulation training company which is bringing you this podcast today. AviatorCast is weekly podcast where we talk about the spirit of the aviator. We believe flying is an art form, one that we have to continually practice and master. This mastery is gained through a focus on continual learning, human factors, humility and a commitment to excellence. Show notes, transcript, community discussion and links for this episode can be found by simply going to AviatorCast.com.
So welcome to this, the 43rd episode of AviatorCast. You know, that’s kind of an insignificant number but it is still 43 great episodes that we have here, and I’ve got a great show lined up for you guys today. I am flying solo but I’ve got a couple great things for you to ponder and think about, and I think you guys will enjoy those.
Before we get into that, as always, we have a review. This one comes from Kajo Merkert and he says “Awesome work Chris. I love listening to your podcast everyday on my trip to and from work. It makes the drive so much more enjoyable. Your guest interviews are amazing and there are so much to learn. I think what I love the most about those interviews is that this struggle to make your dreams a reality is applicable to so many areas in life and not just aviation. Therefore, there is so much to take away from your interviews when it comes to striving to be your best, always being humble, overcoming obstacles and so much more. Highly recommended listening.”
So thanks so much Kajo, really appreciate that, and I think you’re absolutely right. I think many of the things we learn in aviation, not just achieving this goal and the things we can learn there, but so many of the other things that are to learn like organization and striving to be our best and so on and so forth. In fact, you said, striving to be our best. All of these things we can glean from aviation and a lot of the examples here, so you’re absolutely right. Thank you for the wonderful interview. This interview was actually left to us through our survey at survey.aviatorcast.com. This is a place to give us new ideas, to leave a little bit of a review and to keep this show fresh. Another place to review this show is on iTunes if you choose to review there.
Alright, so today I have a flight simulation topic and a flight training topic lined up for you guys. These are separate and they aren’t really related to each other but I wanted to touch on each kind of area like we used to do as I don’t have an interview for this episode, but this will give you guys something to chew on both ends of the spectrum. So let’s right into it and let’s go into the flight simulation topic.
And now, the flight simulation segment…
Chris: Alright, so today in the flight simulation topic, we are going to talk about next level sim visuals or how to upgrade the visuals that are in your simulator. Now, in today’s world, most of you will have one single monitor in front of you. You have this really nice set-up with this great high-powered PC that gives amazing visuals right inside the simulator and good gaming graphics, all that sort of stuff. You have amazing controls at your disposal with yoke, rudder pedals, throttle, maybe even some other panels that you’ve built out. You have all of these amazing stuff but a lot of us are still in this realm where we’re dealing with maybe a 27-inch monitor. Maybe even smaller than that. We just have one single monitor right there in front of us.
So, I don’t know, I think that we can all do better to upgrade the visuals in our simulator, and the reason why this is so important is because flying is such a visual thing. We use our sight to get around and especially VFR, we use our sight so much. And even if we’re just talking about instrument training, we are using that sight to see the panel. And right now, we’re kind of pigeonholed into this one little screen. And I think there are some great new technologies that are coming out that I want to suggest to you guys as a way to open up this visual world to you in the simulator.
Now, I’m going to suggest some of these things and share my perspective on them, but it’s also going to be up to you to go out and study them a little more and look into these technologies. I really think we’re really entering a new realm these days in what is going to be possible with visuals in the gaming market as a whole but when you talk about flight simulation, we are obviously taking this to a whole new level in trying to do things realistically.
So I’m going to go down the list. I will give you guys these links in the show notes of the episode which will be available on AviatorCast.com and you can see these for yourself. You can even maybe go and order one or two of them, but this is definitely a way to upgrade your sim visuals and I think you guys will be pretty impressed with some of these. Some of them are in the starting range of just a couple hundred dollars or less and then some of them are in the thousands range. Some of them aren’t even available yet because they’re still under development. So you’ll kind of see that as we go along here but I think upgrading visuals is such an important thing to great simulation that you should really consider it for your home simulator.
Obviously, the guys that have very professional simulators, they’re using wraparound screens. We’re talking about the airline level D sims and the Redbirds and the flight safety devices of the worlds. So we’re talking about those high-powered sims but at home, I know we can upgrade this as well. So anyway, we’re going to go through this one by one and it’s up to you to go and research them afterward, but I think you’ll find some good stuff here to upgrade your visuals.
So the first one is TrackIR. Now, TrackIR is something that can upgrade your current just single monitor into an experience that is much more immersive. What TrackIR is it’s basically an infrared system where you put a little thing on top of your monitor, it’s a reader, and then you have another device, a relay on your headset. They call it the proclip. Now this system working in conjunction is what is called headtracking. So what’s happening is this system is tracking where your head is in 3D space and it’s adjusting what you see in the simulator as a result. So if you are in a simulator and you have TrackIR on, you can lean forward, you can lean back, side to side, you can roll your head. Any position in 3D movement, you can basically adjust.
Now, there are limitations obviously. It’s not going to read the back of your head and the reader and the clip that you have on have to both be in range of each other. So if you go across the room, you’re obviously going to go out of the view of the reader eventually, and it’s kind of just a small box that you kind of stay in, something that is normal for what you would actually be in in a cockpit where you may be able to lean a foot or two to the left, a foot or two to the right, forward, back, so on and so forth where it’s pretty realistic as far as our containment within a cockpit, but this opens up your 3D world. It allows you to use your current technology, just that single monitor that we are talking about to open up your 3D world. So you can look around the cockpit, you can lean in and touch a switch, those sort of things.
I really like TrackIR. It’s something that I personally have and use. It’s especially good for when you’re doing VFR maneuvers and you need a little bit more dimension to how the aircraft is moving through the air. TrackIR is a very great solution for that and I would suggest that as a low-cost solution, this is something you can use to upgrade your simulator. It comes in with the reader and the proclip at about 160 or 170 US dollars. That may be a little less or a little more depending on where you are in the world but this is a very low cost solution to get into and a great one, so that’s TrackIR.
Now, these aren’t going to be in any specific order as far as cost. I just kind of wrote these down and we’re going to go through one by one because the next one isn’t even available on the public market yet and it’s not widely compatible with simulators yet, so that is the Oculus Rift. Now, the Oculus Rift is very different in that this is getting into what is called virtual reality. It’s where we have the typical glasses that are completely covering your face. We’re not talking about just Google Glasses which are transparent. We are talking about a system that completely covers your eyes and it actually has speakers on your ears too, some headphones if you will. It completely immerses you in the virtual environment.
So, the drawbacks to this as simulator pilots is that we actually would not be able to see our controls. We wouldn’t be able to reach out and do anything with that. Now, that’s not necessarily a problem because as a pilot you should be able to inherently and instinctually just reach out and touch something in your cockpit anyway without really looking at it, but the drawback there is that if you go up and you try to change your altimeter setting, you’re not going to be able to just look straight at the altimeter and change it, you would essentially be kind of limited there because you wouldn’t actually see a change although you kind of would because you could have that show in virtual reality, but anyway, you wouldn’t see your hand go up and reach it. So there are some limitations to Oculus Rift.
Now, this is very popular in the gaming market right now. Oculus Rift I think is the pinnacle of the solutions that we’re going to talk about here because it literally immerses you in the 3D world. You can turn 360 degrees, it detects where your head is. You can really get in on minute details and look at things. It’s simulator TrackIR in that you can move around but it doesn’t have a lot of limitations as far as how you can interact with the 3D world. As far as I understand it, they can even get this to the point where they could put it in a room and you could actually walk around the room. Now as pilots, we don’t really have to worry about, we’re sitting down in a seat but it just shows you how powerful this technology is.
Now, Oculus Rift is several years old. It first started on Kickstarter. It was widely funded on Kickstarter and really took off. They’ve had several development kits that people have used in simulators and they’ve actually come up with some solutions for simulators, but it’s not quite refined yet and there’s not a public or consumer version of it yet. You can buy what’s called an STK or a development kit and this will allow you to have the unit but again, it’s limited in that you don’t really have full support of some of these simulators and I think the development kit is a couple thousand dollars if I’m not mistaken. I could be completely off on that but I think it’s quite expensive if I’m not mistaken.
Now, Oculus Rift has a new version which they’re kind of showing at public events and it’s called the Crescent Bay, and apparently the Crescent Bay has a much higher fidelity as far as movement and the visuals are a lot better. So this technology is getting better and better and better and they’re moving toward a consumer version of this unit which honestly, someday it’s going to change the way we use simulation. I can see this being used just off the top of my head as a VFR only maneuver thing where we’re in the cockpit, the only thing we really are manipulating are the controls and we aren’t really dealing very much too much with the instrumentation and things like that, but this could allow us to really immerse ourselves in that 3D world and gain that perspective and that peripheral vision and allow the other things that we lose with just having a flat screen monitor.
So the Oculus Rift is a very cool thing that is up and coming and I think it could revolutionize the simulation
industry one day. So watch out for it. It’s not quite out yet but it’s definitely something that you should go and research and see how other people are enjoying it and then you can imagine what it would do for simulation.
The next one, I just learned about yesterday. Now, this is an ultra wide monitor from LG. Most monitors these days are in widescreen format so they are in 16 x 9 format. This however is in 21 x 9 format. It’s an ultra wide monitor. It’s much larger length or horizontal or landscape-wise, whatever you want to call it, than your typical monitor. So you really get a larger stretch or in our case, you get a larger cockpit window in which to view from. Another cool thing about this monitor is that it is curved glass, well maybe not glass but it is curved, and will allow you to have better immersion that way as well. It’s made out of some of the better technology for today where you can view it from better viewing angles. It has speakers built into it. It has a lot of connections of built into it, so it will even be compatible with a Mac for you guys out there who fly X-Plane. Really cool display. If I had all the money in the world, I’d probably buy one today. This one comes in at a pretty penny. It is 1300 dollars USD from what I’m seeing here, but this ultra wide monitor really upgrades the current perspective which is just the typical 16 x 9, 24-inch type of monitor, maybe 27-inch, maybe even larger than that, but it really upgrades to something that is wider and like I said, a larger cockpit window, so that’s another option that you could look into. Now, 1200-1300 dollars, that is a lot of money. You can build a very decent simulator with that amount of money that will actually run your simulator as a whole but for you guys out there that are putting a little more money into your simulators, this is something to look into and I’d even be curious to know what could happen if you link several of these together and that kind of brings us to the next one.
Now, this one is something that’s been out for as long as I can remember in the simulation community. I’ve never personally used it but the concept of it is widely available so you see it in many places. Again, you see in the Redbirds or something like it and this is called the TripleHead2Go. Now, what TripleHead2Go does is it’s this box that connects three monitors together. It may even be able to do more, I’m not completely sure on that, but it connects several monitors together and allows you to basically create, kind of what we’re talking about with the ultra wide monitor, a larger cockpit window. So you can link multiple monitors together and get a more wraparound screen with just using regular off the market monitors. So this is actually, to get that big wraparound screen, this is actually a pretty low cost solution because you can go out and you can get very decent monitors for 150, 200 dollars each and then you link those together with something like the TripleHead2Go and you get better wraparound graphics. And then if you got really crazy, we could even link that up to something like the TrackIR and now you can look around that big cockpit window if you will. So, some different combinations you can get there too but that is TripleHead2Go.
And lastly, this is the old, old, old technology but still very relevant which is the projector. Now, the projector is something that happened and started way back in the day when movies or moving pictures or cinemas first started and it is still relevant today. So you may even consider if you have simulation room, I don’t know what your setup is like, but you may even be able to just project the simulator on to a wall and do it that way. That’s another option. I know people do that. I know that there are some good HD projectors out there, so that is another option.
So those are kind of the options that I came up with. The TrackIR, the Oculus Rift, this ultra wide monitor that is new and cool, the TripleHead2Go and you could even go the projector route. So I challenge you guys to go and check out some of those and see which ones you like and maybe plan on creating your visuals. It will really upgrade your simulator. If you kind of already feel like you have everything built out and it’s working really well, this is a way to just take your simulation to the next level, become a better simulator pilot, so on and so forth. So that is the next level of sim visuals and now we’re going to get into the flight training topic.
And now, the flight training segment…
Chris: Okay, so now we are in the flight training topic and today we are going to talk about learning from accidents. Now, this is a very sensitive subject because it gets very personal for some people. Those pilots that have been out for a while will inevitable have friends that they have lost an accident in aviation. A lot of what this topic is going to be about is honoring the memory of those people that have passed on before, whether of their own stupidity or outside of their control, whatever it is, this is meant to instill in you a sense of not passing judgment on those people that have died in accidents, all those people that even had incidents, but to rather say “Okay, how could I have been in this position? How could I have gotten myself in this position? I know that I’m a great pilot but how could I have gotten myself in this position to make these mistakes?”
So that is where we’re going to approach this from and a lot of that is because there is this mentality out there and it’s largely called Monday morning quarterbacking. So this is derived from American football is played primarily on Sundays but there are a lot Monday morning quarterbacks that on Monday they say “Oh, well the quarterback should have done this to win the game and they could’ve won it if he would’ve made this pass or made this read or if he wouldn’t have made this mistake.” There are so many people out there that on Monday morning have all the answers but while that was happening, they don’t really have the answers and they weren’t that quarterbacks.
So this is one of those mentalities that I want to really encourage you as listeners of AviatorCast to get away from. Because what I find from this is that many people ignore the lessons that can be learned from these accidents in aviation if they passed judgment too early or they say that the pilots did something stupid or they couldn’t have done it, so on and so forth. You know, there are many, many, many great, great pilots that have been lost to accidents for simple reasons and we can’t simply say these guys were idiotic for doing that. We need to rather ask ourselves how could we have put ourselves in that position?
And it goes back to what I always mention at the beginning of the show. It’s in the script for the beginning for the show and it says that we want to gain a mastery through continual learning, human factors, humility and a commitment to excellence. This one specifically goes to the humility component of that and tells us “Okay, we are not invulnerable. We are definitely capable of making these mistakes.” So that’s what I want to start off this topic in saying is that we are able to make mistakes. Accidents do happen, they can happen to us and we need to be prepared for the unknown, things that happen.
So part of this episode, I’m going to go through and read to you some very recent NTSB initial incident reports that have come out about some accidents that happened just this last October. So just several days ago now, some fatal accidents that I pulled out, I think I have one that is non-fatal but some fatal accidents that I pulled out that I want you guys to look into. Now, as part of this, if you haven’t already listened to this episode, I want you guys to go back and listen to episode 11 with Dr. Paul Craig who wrote a book called The Killing Zone. So your first order of homework is to go listen to that episode if you haven’t already.
The second is even more above and beyond that is go read The Killing Zone. It will put a better perspective on general aviation and teach you as a pilot the actual danger of flying a small airplane and what you can do to mitigate those risks. I could tell you right now what it boils down to but I’m sure you can learn that on your own but going and listening to that episode and also reading the book. I feel those should absolutely be requirement for every private pilot. I’m not necessarily saying every private pilot should be required to listen to AviatorCast but they should be required to read The Killing Zone. It will definitely change your perspective on this.
Alright, so we’re going through several accident reports here and just talk about them briefly. Really, what I’m trying to glean from this information is to show you that things have happened very recently that you may not have heard of that are pretty important and pretty eye-opening and this just goes to show you that this stuff happens nearly everyday and that you and I as pilots although statistically very unlikely this can happen to us. Then I have an acronym later for you guys to ponder and think about that can help you during some of these emergencies and help you be a better aviator during these moments that can be life-altering literally in life and death situations.
Alright, so I’m going open up the first accident report here. I’m going to read it a little bit. I may stop in the middle but we’re just going to read through it a little bit. So this one is an example of a very professional pilots, very, very professional working in kind of a hostile environment, and not having a great outcome. So this happened on October 7th 2014 and a lot of this is going to be NTSB speak which is very literal and matter of fact. So this happened on October 7th 2014 about 1630 Pacific Daylight Time. A Marsh Aviation S-2F3AT airplane, I don’t even know what type that is, November 449 Delta Fox callsign Tanker-81 was destroyed by impact with terrain in a post-crash fire while maneuvering in the Yosemite National Park near El Portal California. The airplane was registered to blah blah blah and under contract with the National Park Service.
Visual flight rules prevailed, and this was a public use aerial firefighting tanker. The airline transport pilot, the sole occupant received fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed as I said for the flight that departed from Columbia Airport. So this was an ATP-rated pilot which means that he had at least a very good amount of experience underneath his belt. According to the Four Service spokesman, the airplane was stationed at the airbase at Hollister California and had been dispatched to the Dog Rock Fire. The airplane arrived on the scene and made one drop on the fire and then proceeded to the Columbia Airport to be reloaded with fire retardant. During the aerial firefighting operations, in addition to the aerial tanker, two other aircrafts were used, an orbiting aerial controller that coordinated aerial operations with ground units and a lead plane that tracked ahead of the tanker to define the route and the drop initiation point.
So basically what happens during these firefighting operations is they have someone up above that is viewing the area and they tell the firefighters on the ground where to go and kind of what’s happening so they can best position themselves. And then there is actually a lead plane for each one of these tankers that flies down the exact path they want the pilot to go and then they tell them exactly where to drop. So these guys just aren’t flying in their blind. They have someone that’s guiding them through this, and it really helps them out a lot because this is a very dangerous operation to do firefighting and working very close to terrain and trees and it’s obviously it’s very dangerous. We’re talking about this NTSB fatal accident report.
Alright, so then it says upon returning to the fire scene, the accident airplane had coordinated its next drop with the orbiting aerial coordinator and was following the lead plane. The crew of the lead airplane did not see the accident. The crew of the controller airplane reported that that accident airplane may have struck a tree with its wing which separated from the airplane. Both air crews reported that there was smoke in the area but visibility was good. So essentially what happened here is you have a very dangerous firefighting situation where an ATP pilot impacted terrain. He clipped trees or something. They don’t fully know quite yet but this happened just a month ago, just one month ago that it has happened, and I didn’t even hear about this. This wasn’t even on the news.
So let’s bring up this second one. Alright, so this is a Mooney. It says on October 27th which is several days ago now, about 0740 Mountain Daylight Time, a Mooney M20E airplane registration was substantially damaged when it impacted the ground just north to the Boulder Mountain Airport. A post-impact fire ensued. The airline transport pilot, again an ATP pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was registered and operated by a private individual under the provisions of Part 91. VFR conditions prevailed for the flight which operated without a flight plan. The flight was originating at the time of the accident was en route to the Rocky Mountain Airport, so just a very, very short flight. I think that’s under 50 miles, a very short flight for this guy. In fact, it may have been under 20. It’s something very short.
According to family and friends of the pilot, he was taking the airplane to the Denver Metropolitan Airport or Kilo Bravo Juliet Charlie which I’ve flown into many times myself, to have routine maintenance performed on the airplane. Several witnesses reporting seeing the airplane as it took off from runway 08. Shortly after liftoff, the airplane banked to the left and continued to the north in a steep bank and a nose-low attitude. The airplane impacted the ground nearly vertical and came to a rest on the north edge of Independence Road just north of the airport. The airplane was substantially damaged by the impact sequence and post-impact fire. The main wreckage included the engine and propeller assembly, the fuselage, the empennage in both wings.
Again, this is very matter-of-fact but somebody died here. We don’t know what happened. It sounds like there was a loss of control somehow after takeoff. Again, we don’t know what happened but this was an ATP-rated pilot. This guy most likely had a lot of experience. Now, I’m not trying to scare anyone here and that’s why I initially said it’s important that you read The Killing Zone. It puts this stuff in perspective and just gives you an idea of how vulnerable we really are and that statistically, it is quite unlikely for this to happen to you but again, I just wanted to note that it does happen. I don’t want to scare you out of flying, that’s not the point here. Really, anything out there is dangerous. Driving is dangerous, going golfing is dangerous, playing baseball is dangerous, football, all sorts of things. I don’t think that we should sit back and waste our lives while these amazing opportunities kind of pass before us, but what I am saying is that we need to be aware of these things, we need to know that they can happen to us and I want to encourage you to be more prepare for when and if they do happen, okay?
Alright, so here’s another one. This one happened in Georgia. October 16th, just a couple of weeks ago, at 1129 Eastern Daylight Time, a Rockwell International 112A registration. It was operated by a private individual. It collided with a powerline pole unmarked transmission lines and then the ground during a forced landing in Gainesville, Georgia. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed which means VFR at that time and no flight plan was filed under Part 91 and this happened near the Gainesville Airport. The airplane was destroyed by a post-crash fire. The certified flight instructor sustained serious injuries while the private rated pilot was fatally injured. The flight originated about one minute earlier from Gainesville.
A witness who was outside his hangar which is located south of the runway 29 near the departure end of runway 29 reported that he observed the airplane flying at an estimated altitude of 400 feet. He heard a surging sound from the engine and noticed oscillations of pitch and roll. The witness saw the airplane for about three to four seconds and then lost sight due to obstructions. He then heard a loud sound from the powerlines and heard the sound of impact followed by seeing smoke. He then ran to the site, called 911 to report the accident and when he arrived, there were already 8 to 9 people on scene. When he arrived, the CFI was out of the airplane and on the grass located north of the location of the wreckage.
So here’s another witness. Another witness who was in a building located immediately west to the accident site reported seeing the airplane’s landing gear barely clear the building as it flew in an easterly direction towards the airport. The witness heard a sputtering and popping sound from the engine but did not see any smoke trailing the airplane. The witness reported that as the airport flew towards the powerlines that were located east of the building, he observed the airplane pitch up as if in an attempt to avoid the powerlines. A portion of a wing contacted a powerline pole and then the airplane rolled and impacted the ground, coming to a rest inverted. The witness ran to the accident site and assisted the CFI from the airplane and also attempted to rescue the other occupant but was unable. He then rendered assistance to the CFI while first responders arrived.
So this guy, this witness, it sounds like he was the first one on the scene. He helped the CFI out of the airplane, he couldn’t get to the other private pilot. The CFI survived, the other didn’t. Now, this is kind of a different story. This is what appears to be some sort of in-flight engine failure. Again, we don’t know these things for sure, we can only speculate, and I’m just kind of stating what I think happened here, not who I think is at fault or what they did wrong or anything like that.
But we had another very serious situation. We had a flight instructor on board. Flight instructors aren’t gods but they are more experienced than just your regular private pilot so they do have some experience behind them and then we had a private on board so this wasn’t a student pilot. There was obviously some sort of failure here. It looked like they were returning to the airport and we don’t know any circumstances beyond that, but it just goes to show that this stuff can happen, okay? This is pretty hard. I don’t like to necessarily read through this stuff and just talk about all these things as if they don’t matter. I mean, people died in this situations and it’s really terrible and tragic. We need to learn from these. The more we learn from them, the fewer accidents we’re going to have.
It’s really difficult measure those accidents that don’t happen because someone learned from another accident, it’s nearly an impossible thing to learn or a statistic to get. We can’t determine how many people this podcast or other forms of media will reach out and teach a pilot something that he then learns that then prevents an accident. We can’t quantify that. But we can make sure that in our own lives that we do learn something from this situations and that we better prepare ourselves just in case something like this ever does happen. We don’t plan on them happening but we just work just in case they do happen. We don’t want these things to happen but we definitely want to be prepared.
Okay, so on October 12 again, just last month, these are all from October, a Beechcraft model 58 which I believe is a Baron piloted by a private pilot was destroyed when it impacted trees and terrain in a town in Illinois. The pilot and two passengers sustained fatal injuries so three fatalities here. The aircraft was registered to this company and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Part 91, a lot of these stuff I’m kind of paraphrasing. Marginal visual meteorological conditions so this MVFR. So lower ceiling, something else is happening. There’s even possibility for IFR here and it says that the flight was not on a flight plan. The flight originated about 2235 from the Midway International Airport near Chicago, Illinois and was en route to the Lawrence Municipal Airport in Kansas.
Preliminary radar track. So this is interesting because we actually got a radar track of what happened to this flight. Preliminary radar track information showed that the airplane departed from runway 22 left at Midway and began climbing on runway heading 220 degrees. When the airplane had reached an altitude of about 2200 feet above mean sea level, it turned about 30 degrees to the left to a heading of 190 degrees and began descending. During the descent, the airplane then turned to the right to a heading of 260 degrees. During the right turn, the airplane descended to about 1500 feet MSL and then started to climb. During this period, the airplane entered a left turn which continued for about 360 degrees before radar contact was lost. The final recorded altitude, it was about 2000 feet MSL.
Alright, so now we find out what the actual weather is. So this is where it gets interesting in this particular case. At 2238 which, let me look back here, 2238, so this fly originated at 2235, so this is just right around the time of departure. The weather conditions at Midway were winds 170 at 9 knots, 6 statute miles visibility with mist, a broken ceiling at 1000 feet above ground level, an overcast ceiling at 1400 feet AGL and temperature 15 degrees Celsius 2.13, so on and so forth.
Okay, so it looks like in this particular case, I mean I’m just speculating here and I know we’re into speculation but what this appears to be to me is VMC into IMC. So this was essentially a flight that looks like the pilot got up in the clouds, he got turned around, he wasn’t instrument-rated. Maybe he was but maybe out of practice. We don’t truly know at this point but what we do know is that he got up in the clouds apparently and started to bob and weave and descended and climb and eventually went to a 360 kind of graveyard spiral.
Now, what can we learn from this? I mean, that’s the big question and that’s an open-ended question for you. I know a lot of you will gawk at this and say “Man, why would this guy do that? Why would he go up into those conditions if he wasn’t ready for it?” What if he had instruments that were failing on him? What if not everything was working how it was supposed to? What if he was pushing himself beyond his limits because he had a very important place to be? What if his mother was dying or something like that? What if he had some of these very intense external pressures that were on him in order to go flying? So these are the things we don’t know and some of the things we need to ask ourselves to say “How could I have put myself in this situation? How could I have done something like this?” And I think that’s what I’m trying to gain here. I have one more of these but I don’t think it’s so important that we need to read it.
What I want to do is I want to start talking about “Okay, then now what?” We understand that aviation is technically dangerous, that these accidents can happen, that we should try to learn from them and we should try to better prepare ourselves but now what? So I have an acronym that I want you guys to memorize and put into practice. This is called the PLAN B acronym. So plan A is that the flight would go just as you had planned. You go up and you practice maneuvers. You go up and you go for a crosscountry flight. That’s plan A.
This is plan B. Something has just happened, you need to change course of action. It may even be a very urgent plan B but this is now the PLAN B acronym. So we’re going to go through each one of the points here in the PLAN B acronym and I’m going to suggest to you some things that can help you better prepare for these situations.
Alright, so first is Practice. Now my wife gave me this really awesome quote from Abraham Lincoln. It says “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” I thought that was really cool. It just goes to show that practice and preparation are some important when it comes to really anything but particularly in this case, but particularly in this case, once you get into this PLAN B area where you are now in a situation that requires you to do something different and to get yourself out of an accident or an incident, it’s going to be really favorable for you if you have practiced this stuff already.
So if you haven’t practiced maneuvers or these emergencies, the view outside the window may be absolutely crazy. If you’ve never done an inflight fire or inflight engine fire and have had to push the airplane to the redline basically in order to get the fire out, then you will never truly understand how much pitchdown it takes to put that fire out. So practicing these maneuvers will help you actually get a little more comfortable with the crazy is out the window so that you can understand what’s going to happen. There are some things you can’t practice, something like an impossible turn back to the runway after you take off or even failing the engine after you take off which it kind of sounds like that happened in the Gainesville accident that we talked about, but you can practice those things in a simulator, okay? So this is where a simulator comes into play. Simulators are amazing at the scenario-based training where we’re putting the pilots in situations where it is unsafe to do them in the airplane.
That is what simulation is all about at the end of the day. That is why they have become so prevalent in the airlines because airlines aren’t going to go out and they’re not going to do missed approaches and windshear warnings and rejected takeoffs and single engine landings and all sorts of different stuff in the real airplane. It just doesn’t make sense, right? So why does that make sense for general aviation? Why not practice those emergencies in a simulator? This is stuff that you can practice at home. A lot of the practice here is just to get used to how this looks outside the window. You’re not going to really get the feel of it in a simulator but you’re going to understand the flow of how you have to handle these emergencies and what needs to happen. The more instinctual that is when this happens, the quicker you’re going to start to jump into that emergency checklist, those memory items, those second saving things that will help you and potentially save you from a potential incident.
I’ve even had a situation like this where I had a very complex fuel system in a Bonanza that I had where it had six different tanks. It had tip tanks, it had some main tanks and had some ox tanks, had a very complex fuel system and I actually ran the fuel out on one of the tanks one time, and although this is a very minor example, the engine started to sputter, I was at cruise altitude so it wasn’t an emergency or anything but it was completely blanketed IFR underneath me. The only place I could see to land which wasn’t mountains was just a blanket of white clouds and so I didn’t know it was below that and for all I knew, it was all the way to the ground, so not good situation really.
But I knew instinctually I just had to reach for the fuel. I had to reach for the fuel, I had to switch to both tanks, I had to do something to get to where I knew I had the most fuel. And so I did that super quick, I did it so fast that the engine never actually stopped, it was just a little sputter but that’s just one of those situations where if you know what to do and you know what this cause of this is, you can try to fix it immediately. So that sort of thing, that sort of practice not only comes from the things that you can do in a real airplane but it also comes from simulation. So that is the P in PLAN B, practice or preparation.
Alright, so now the L in the PLAN B acronym. That is “Land ASAP.” So choosing a safe landing zone is a dying art, one that isn’t taught very well in flight schools these days. Before you even take off for example, you should know where you’re going to land if you have a low altitude engine failure right after takeoff. You’re taught all along that you can’t turn back, that the impossible turn is exactly that, it’s impossible, so you need to know what the best place to land is and it’s usually straight ahead but that’s just one of those examples, where do you land? So landing location, it matters a lot. Not all fields are created equal. Obviously trees and mountains and rocks, all those things aren’t very great. If you have a road, that is great but there are also powerlines around roads, so you have to think about all these things. Even a field, say you choose a field, it generally doesn’t have powerlines going through the middle of it, right? Even a newly plowed field can be incredibly dangerous because your wheels just dig straight into it and you’ll flip the airplane. And flipping the airplane like that at that high speed is often very fatal. So don’t think that a field is a perfect option.
So we need to land ASAP. Say that your engine is still running, this isn’t a forced landing, you need to get to an airport as soon as you can. You need to go toward the airport and you need to land. That’s the kind of mentality that I’m trying to bring out here, that you need to get to a safe area. Now, there is a very interesting book and we actually had this guy on the podcast. There is a very interesting book called The Thinking Pilot’s Flight Manual or he says “How to Survive Flying Little Airplanes and Have a Ball Doing It.” And this came from an author named Rick Durden. Very experienced aviator. This guy was a lawyer for Cessna for years, learned how to fly basically all the airplanes they had. He also has flown I think over 700 types of airplanes. This guy has flown everything, okay? Lots of experienced.
What he talks about in his book, several crazy things. He’s kind of a creative guy when it comes to aviation and thinking outside the box which is something we’re really losing and we need to bring back. And he suggests some very interesting things. He says “If you’re pushing it to get to the airport and you’re not sure you’re going to make it because of fuel, you should land in some farmer’s land and ask for forgiveness rather than permission and come away alive rather than trying to make it to the airport, running out of fuel and being forced to land in a place that is not suitable for you to land.”
He used this example of this pilot approaching an airport and I may screw this story up, but a pilot approaching at airport, he ended up crashing something like three miles before the airport but around that area or even before, there wasn’t a lot of mist and clouds I think like was part of the problem as well and there were reasonable places to land, reasonable fields where he could have landed, reasonable roads, but he tried to press on. So something Rick said was land while you can, land while it’s safe. You see a lot of pilots do that, they’re landing on roads and highways and stuff and they end up okay is the guys that are forced to land in the trees and forced to land in a spot where they don’t want to land that it ends up being kind of dangerous, and Rick also goes on in another chapter and talked about the fact that it is actually legal to land on a taxiway. If the wind is not favoring you and the wind is very, very intense, it is actually legal to land on a taxiway, so that is kind of an interesting scenario where a taxiway could be more favorable to you as far as winds than a runway would be and so you could technically land on a taxiway.
Kind of an interesting thing but if you put yourself in that scenario, you can say “Okay, I don’t have any fuel left, I have to land at this airport, but I’m outside the crosswind component to land on the runway but there is this taxiway that I can land on and be within my crosswind component.” So then you start to say “Okay, well that starts to make a little sense.” So anyway, you need to land ASAP, you need to find a safe place to land. I’m not saying that’s always a field or a road. It may be an airport but break the chain of events, stop the flight, get to where you need to go. That is the L in PLAN B.
Now for Attitude, so this is the A. I really think that attitude and human factors is so important when it comes to everything in aviation, and when something intense happens like an emergency or a situation that went to your face that you have to do something, it’s better to just approach it from this perspective that everything will be alright, don’t rush yourself, be assertive, do things correctly, have a positive good attitude about it and get the job done, just get the job done and get it done well. If you have that sort of attitude toward this, then you can definitely do it.
Now, I’m not saying that you should have this sort of attitude that says “I’m invulnerable. Nothing can hurt me. I’m going to do whatever I want.” Or you shouldn’t have the attitude that has you rushing into things. You should think through things and be assertive and do what you need to do and have a good solid mental attitude about this situation, and be prepared. You don’t want to lock up but you also don’t want to overthink things and you don’t want to rush things. So there is this balance that we need to find as pilots in order to get through these situations, these PLAN B situations if you will in a safe manner.
Really, attitude is one of the biggest parts of this entire PLAN B acronym, if we have the right attitude, chances are things are going to turn out okay. I don’t know, that’s just how I view it. I figured that’s the best thing I have in my corner. If I have the right attitude, I’m going to be able to perform to my best ability as an aviator in that intense moment, so attitude is so important. That is something that you have to have all the time. That’s not something you have for just your local flights or just your crosscountry flights or just when you’re at your local airport or just at a foreign airport. Attitude and approaching this profession, this hobby, this passion, this attitude has to be one of respect and one of balance, so that’s my very candid thoughts on Attitude. So that’s the A in PLAN B.
N is Numbers. You absolutely need to know the numbers for your aircraft. You need to know how it flies as a glider, what the speeds are that you are looking for, what bank angle you should be limited to, basically how this airplane would fly in emergency situations and in general how it flies anyway. You should be very familiar with your aircraft. Now, also there are some other numbers to keep in mind. Obviously, you want to keep your V-speeds in mind. You want to know instinctually by the numbers how the airplane flies and you want to know how it flies by hand as well. You want to have good stick and rudder skills. So not only do you need to know those V-speed numbers but you need to also keep in mind some other numbers like the emergency frequency of 121.5 or even with just a frequency you’re currently on, that’s usually the best one because you’re already in contact to say center or whoever it is that you’re talking to.
If time permits, you could also remember the squawk number of 7700 which is an emergency. I would imagine that it sends off a lot of alarms for air traffic control guys that no matter where you are and no matter what you’re doing, they know that there is an emergency there. So that could help you as well. So there are a lot of numbers to think about. Obviously, the numbers on the airplane, numbers as far as limitations, numbers for communications, lots of numbers. You should be thinking about the numbers and I’m sure that you could come up with even more numbers than even the few that I few suggested here.
So that is the N in PLAN B. Now, the B is kind of funny but it is also very serious. B can be several different words and one of them is bravery, being brave about this, one of them is brawn, so being tough and don’t let the situation break you, and then the other one is balls. I didn’t really want to have to say that word but those are the three that are kind of similar and what I’m getting after in this particular one bravery, brawn or balls. You need to be able to get through the situation. You need to be tough. To need to have this Kevlar on if you will that you have built with these other things that we’ve talked about, with this attitude, with knowing the numbers, with knowing where to land and planning where to land even ahead of time with something happening, practicing, and you need to just have this attitude.
Again, going back to attitude I said, attitude is one of the most important things and this is one of those attitudes you need to have. You need to be unpenetratable. You need to be tough because when this stuff happens, I can tell you from personal experience that the wheels are turning and it is very scary and the adrenaline is rushing and there is the sense that you want to freeze up and the sense that you want to rush but you just have to buckle down, focus, and you have to make this happen and you have to power through. So I hope that kind of makes sense. I think that takes a lot of bravery. I think it takes a lot of strength and brawn and I think it takes balls to do. So that is the B in PLAN B.
I hope you guys enjoyed that acronym. I think it’s good one in preparing you well for emergencies. Again, let’s review those. It is practice or prepare, land ASAP and also know your landing conditions and when to land, attitude, numbers and then bravery, balls or brawn. So that’s PLAN B.
So I didn’t mean to and I hope I didn’t to scare you in this particular topic but I just wanted to mention that we can get away from this plague that’s kind of out there right now that says “Oh well, I wouldn’t have made those mistakes.” You could’ve done those things. We all could’ve done those things. We all could’ve been in that accident. So learn from them. Don’t be the next guy that makes that type of accident and realize that you are vulnerable and you have a bit of a say in how vulnerable you are and you can plan ahead, you can have that plan B.
So that is it for this topic. I love to hear you guys’ feedbacks and suggestions on this. You can always go and join in on the conversation on this episode at AviatorCast.com. I always love to hear from you guys there. You can also write me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you in either location. I’d love to hear you guys’ thoughts.
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Alright, so truly many thanks go out to you for joining us on this episode of AviatorCast. We really wouldn’t be able to do this show without you. I’m really grateful to have you here and you’re such an amazing part of this community. I’m so grateful for how engaged you are in this wonderful passion for flying things.
So until next time, from Chris Palmer of AviatorCast, throttle on!
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