OEM flight departments operate throughout the world in promoting their companies' products. To get a sampling of their experiences and advice, we submitted a series of questions to the flight ops crews at . Their responses follow. As agreed at the outset, for reasons that will be obvious, the pilots' identities had to be protected. Numbers indicate more than one pilot responding.
Q: When entering the airspace of a hotspot, would you take an extra pilot in order to have an extra set of eyes in the cockpit?
Pilot 1: I would take an extra pilot for another set of eyes, but if there were hotspots in the air or on the ground, you would probably want more intelligence, maybe security personnel and training in maneuvers to stay safe.
Pilot 2: A third pilot was standard [in the military]. Also, crewmembers at each aft window to spot potential missile firings, in addition to missile warning systems. A missile strike is not the end - each large aircraft struck by an IR-guided missile was landed, [although] with some difficulty. CRM [crew resource management] is the reason they were landed safely.
Q: Would you recommend training in evasive maneuvers if going into areas where there might be danger of ground fire or shoulder-launched `anti-aircraft missiles?
Pilot 1: I have been trained in maneuvers while in the military in my past life. A situation like this would probably not be the best place to be flying into if you or your security report determines there is danger of this activity. Best to pick another airport that meets the company's security level. The problem I see is receiving/performing training on a regular basis.
Q: Ever perform a high-key approach?
Pilot 1: Yes I have in the Air Force . . . in Saudi Arabia and other military bases overseas. There needs to be training involved to perform this safely and not only in a simulator.
Pilot 2: I have not spiraled in combat, but taught it in the C-5. It was done for some time there, but all U.S. military aircraft were equipped with flare dispensers in addition to using tactical arrivals/departures.
Pilot 3: Yes, as a military pilot and as a civilian pilot conducting military operations from Balad and Baghdad, Iraq, and Kabul/Bagram, Afghanistan. Approaches varied from high overheads with a break to overhead spirals.
Q: What are your contingency plans if ATC is spotty or in the event of an unplanned incident?
Pilot 1: If ATC problems are already forecast by intelligence personnel, it's probably time to select another airport. It's always a good plan to have numerous frequencies on hand just in case. Always have a chart out on the area along with STARs, SIDs and approach plates quickly available.
Pilot 2: Again, can you get to the aircraft, start and depart with relatively little interference? Is there an air threat or is the biggest threat ground based? Is it possible to plan a low-level flight until reaching safe areas? Do you have the navigation charts and data to allow low-level flight through unfamiliar terrain? If there is not an air threat, what are the best altitudes to evade ground-based threats?
Pilot 3: I have only had one experience when a tower controller handed us off to the departure controller, and no one was there. We went back to the tower frequency, and no one was home there either. Needless to say we were scrambling with a chart to find a frequency for someone who would talk to us. We found one, and everything was fine after that.
Q: Elaborate on exit planning when the destination is 'hot.'
Pilot 1: I would first say that if the country is 'hot,' it may not be the best place to be flying in a business aircraft. It is probably a best practice to have an exit plan just in case. Have enough fuel on board, and always have the handler's phone number to coordinate a quick departure, fast and at low altitude.
Pilot 2: My general observation is that a place needing an 'ingress' or 'egress' plan is too 'hot' for business-category aircraft. If the threat is verified and real, actions are needed to reduce the threat first. That said, if the environment has a general, but unverified, threat, an exit plan must address the threat anticipated.
Most plans involve high-speed, low-level routes away from the departure airport, followed by a rapid climb above the threat envelope. Most instances of threats are near the airfield; once away from the airfield, the flight path is so diverse the sheer number of potential flight paths makes it hard for one person to pose a threat. It is merely odds - near the airport it is easy to identify the flight path. Once away from the field, the area of potential flight paths is immense. Low altitude to escape quickly, and over water if available.
Pilot 3: Not too long ago, we were doing interim lift in a certain African country. The situation was such that I was not certain physical control of the aircraft could be maintained for the duration of the support. My evacuation plan was to attempt to take off with or without clearance and fly at low level and high speed over water to a neighboring friendly country.
I have also had occasion in the past to have a plan for evacuation from another African country in the event of a medical emergency, again employing low-level flight.
Further in the past, I have been in situations that required actual evacuation of citizens out of potentially hazardous situations. This involved flight to an airport, loading large numbers of evacuees and departure without advance warning. . . . As a precaution during these operations, at least one engine was left running [during loading] to ensure ability to start remaining engines.
Pilot 4: If a location is that 'hot' to begin with, we typically don't go. We try to mitigate by choosing an alternate location or many times may cancel the trip altogether.
Pilot 5: I would do a very thorough postflight of the jet before I left to go to the hotel. I would make sure I had enough fuel on the aircraft to make it to a safe haven, if needed. I would discuss this contingency with the handler and inform him/her of where I wanted to go if this situation came up so he/she could quickly get a flight plan in the system for an immediate departure.
Pilot 6: There are different levels of threat/hostilities ranging from guerilla activity and escalating political unrest, to terrorists actively in pursuit of American hostages. In general, we should use a trusted outside security firm to provide any security needed for the aircraft and crew. We should stay in accommodations recommended by the security firm as well. Our routes to and from the airport should vary, and in the event we have our own vehicle it should be parked in a secure location and inspected for telltale signs of tampering before driving.
If the situation is too much of a threat, another destination should be selected or the flight/demo delayed. I have had to reschedule a demo flight into Bolivia due to political unrest. In general, we should use our outside vendor to keep us updated on the threat situation for upcoming destinations and use our current risk assessment to determine whether we can do the trip. If we can, we should adhere to the guidance of our vendor and security manager.
Q: Have you ever had to drop passengers and relocate the aircraft to a safer place until it's time to return and collect the passengers?
Pilot 1: I have not had to do this, but I know it is considered when going into certain areas in Africa and the Middle East. It is considered as a precaution when there is unrest in the area or ISOS recommends it in their security brief that we receive when planning a trip into a location like this. Pilots must rely on recommendations from intelligence professionals who attempt to predict the threat level at any given time or location. A risk assessment must be made that considers both the ground and air threat. BCA