Near tragedy due to complacency in oxygen system procedures

2016-05-25 08.40.12A friend recently texted me a picture. It was a flight track screen shot of a plane a contact of his was onboard when they experienced a catastrophic pressurization system failure.

The flight was a demonstration flight for a Citation aircraft that was being considered for purchase.

After climbing to FL430, and while in a cruise, the two pilots on board heard a “loud bang” and got a pressurization system warning.

As I heard it, they grabbed for their oxygen masks and found that no oxygen was being delivered. Not having much time to trouble shoot the system at that altitude, they began an emergency descent. Continue reading

Forecasting ATP Pilot Certification Flows – Decreases Expected Based on Testing Trends

A couple of short years ago, the certification process for ATP pilots changed. We are all familiar with the reasons and what the changes were, but we are starting to see data that can help forecast some of the effects. In short, our ATP certification numbers are trending down and we can expect that it is going to continue.

If we look at the trends of ATP certificates issued on a yearly basis since 2002, we typically saw stability and correlation between the number of ATP knowledge tests and ATP pilot certificates issued on a yearly basis and in comparison with each test. This made logical sense that we would expect to see those who took ATP knowledge tests continue on to take ATP practical tests (resulting in ATP certificate issuances).

ATPNumericalsUntil 2014.

In 2014, when changes were made that would require potential ATP pilots to complete an ATP CTP course prior to being eligible to take even the ATP knowledge test, we saw a significant increase in ATP knowledge test administration as pilots took the test in an effort to avoid needing to take the ATP CTP course. After August 1 of 2014, pilots were no longer able to take the ATP knowledge test without taking the ATP CTP course, and we see an unprecedented drop in pilots who took ATP knowledge tests in the statistical data for 2015.

We have traditionally seen strong correlation between those who took knowledge tests and those who took practical tests, and after conversations with numerous examiners and providers of ATP training around the country, we can expect to see the same correlation in ATP Certificates issues in 2016 (although we will have to wait for another year to see this data).

Continue reading

Avoiding Other Traffic by the Lake

36-lake-michigan-shorelineAs the weather gets better in the spring and summer months, many of us fly more for pleasure than during the winter months. A fantastic pleasure flight that many of us do near the Great Lakes is to fly the shoreline, admiring the beautiful waterfront that our Midwestern states enjoy!

But this can be an area of increased chances of mid-air, shall we say, encounters.

The FAA’s Airman’s Information Manual even highlights times when increased chances of these risks occur. Including flat light conditions, white outs, low ceilings, and low light conditions in addition to flying around a lake.

“Flying the lakeshore” for a summer tour is a common and very enjoyable thing to do, but you probably aren’t the only person with that great idea on a nice summer evening!

Be advised to put a little extra effort as the pilot, and ask passengers to help, in scanning for traffic that may be travelling the same or opposite direction as your aircraft along the lakeshore.

The chances of traffic incursions become even more enhanced when lower ceilings exist that drive traffic to the same altitudes. If, for example, a 4000 ceiling exists, VFR traffic still has plenty of room to fly, but will mostly be driven below the clouds. This limits the altitudes that aircraft can choose and decreases the options for traffic avoidance.

Along with increased traffic scanning attentiveness, it is a great idea to utilize VFR flight following by radar facilities even if not within the specific lateral limits of their airspace. This can increase the chances that they will help the pilot identify any traffic conflicts, both those that they are talking with and any that are not talking with a controller and may just be flying squawking VFR on their own.

We all are looking forward to a fantastic spring and summer season of flying after a dreary winter. Consider this one extra risk area and how you can limit the potential dangers as you enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Great Lakes shorelines!