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Kathleen Bangs

Kathleen Bangs
From Chatterbox to Black Box 

Pilots, by nature, tend to skew toward the paranoid parameter of the bell curve when tested by psychologists, and that’s actually a good trait. It means they double-check things like the weather and fuel load with their own eyes. Pilots keep an ace up their sleeve, a Plan B, because experience has taught them that instruments fail, engines quit, wings stall and weather goes down the tubes. An overly doe-eyed trusting disposition could easily slide toward the edge of liability — if not oblivion — when the daily job demands overcoming gravity.

The Most Awful Glide 

There would be no passenger comments -- good or bad -- about this flight because there were no passengers. Rather, the two pilots were alone aboard the Pinnacle Airlines Bombardier CRJ200 for the evening repositioning hop from Little Rock to Minneapolis on the night of Oct. 14, 2004. The 610-nm trip was to be uneventful, and it was -- at first. But as the crew made its way north at a lofty FL 410, the aircraft's service ceiling, something went wrong.

When There's Smoke, There's Trouble 

It's been almost seven years since the Swissair Flight 111 onboard fire tragedy took the lives of 239 people off the shores of Halifax, Nova Scotia. After one of the most expensive and exhaustive investigations ever undertaken in aviation history, the NTSB recommended smoke visibility devices be carried on the flight decks of all U.S. air carriers. That hasn't happened.

Beware: Contents Under Pressure 

Of the volumes of existing flight regulations, donning one's oxygen mask when required must surely be one of the most neglected by flight crews.

One veteran aviator probably spoke for many when he admitted, ``It's not that I have a good reason for never wearing the mask, it's just that I never seem to think about it, period.''

Pilots With Wrenches 

How much maintenance work on an airplane can a pilot do these days? The quick answer is: not much. As aircraft have become increasingly technologically complicated, the opportunities for pilots to perform their own maintenance -- that is, to turn, twist, drain or smack something -- have significantly diminished.

Braking News 

Even as exacting digital technology pervades aviation, investing it with unprecedented volumes of data and precision, confusion abounds regarding the likelihood of getting one's wonderjet halted before the pavement runs out. The problem is that most unprecise bit of wintertime analog data: braking action reports. Many pilots say that trusting someone else's

estimate on a runway's ability to provide traction is too subjective a thing to be trusted.

Pilots Who Shouldn't Be  20
If aviation really is a fraternity of sorts — a "band of brothers" — then it is the responsibility of each of us to help our weakest siblings, even if that means doing the hard thing of clipping their wings.
Customized Flight Training 

Much of flight training through the years used to be based mainly on airline practices, which evolved from the military model: a ``sit down and shut up'' groundschool heavy on systems memorization, followed by an interrogation-style oral, finished off -- if you made it that far -- with an all-or-nothing checkride. Pass and you were ``in,'' but still subject to the exacting rigors again for recurrent and upgrade training. Fail, however, and you were out the door -- stigmatized, without a job and possibly without a career.

An Angry Tropical Prairie Report #5 Ah, to be 21 with 1,000 hours, and bulletproof. 

IT WAS WINTER IN North Dakota and I'd done my time and paid my dues flight instructing through enough brutal, sub-zero blizzards -- the ones so cold they turn airplane oil into a congealed blob. All it took was one travel brochure featuring palm trees, gin-clear waters and the eye-opening revelation that it was possible to fly in tropical paradise and still be on American territory. Suddenly, I was Eastern Air Lines bound to the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Will Pogo Bounce? 

In all of the excitement and flurry surrounding the new very light jet (VLJ) market, the offshoot that has recently garnered its share of attention from the business world is the highly anticipated air limousine industry launch. While some VLJ manufacturers claim heavy demand and orders in the thousands, others struggle or fold, unable to maintain the vigorous financial stamina required to get a new jet from concept to market.

Hearing Voices: Intuition and Accident Avoidance 

I call them ``tombstone phrases'' -- grim words, the critical things pilots say in the moments before a fatal accident takes place. Although rarely the last spoken words captured by a CVR, the tombstone phrase represents the final window of opportunity for a crew to take action and alter the trajectory of their fate. The words are particularly disturbing when they reveal a crew's doubt and anxiety -- right before that crew does nothing to keep the aircraft from crashing.

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