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_Patrick R. Veillette, Ph.D.

_Patrick R. Veillette, Ph.D.
Maintenance Is Critical Too 

When a modern swept-wing aircraft is properly maintained within its certification limits, it is safe. Operating outside of the certification limits or not maintaining the aircraft to its airworthiness specifications can carry a steep price in the high-altitude environment.

Swept-Wing Transition 

For most pilots, transitioning to a swept-wing jet brings the feeling of having finally “gotten to the top of the pyramid” in professional pilot accomplishments. The opportunity to step into one's first swept-wing jet often occurs in business or regional aviation, where sometimes the standardization and quality of training has been insufficient.

Where Training Needs to Improve 

Business jets operate at significant faster airspeeds and higher altitudes than the large transport sector, and yet the accident record and ASRS reports clearly indicate where training remains inadequate.

First: Will you get sufficient exposure to these unique handling aspects in your simulator training? Likely not. The FAA-mandated training and checking maneuvers require so much time that it leaves no open time for delving into the high-altitude/high-speed scenarios.

'Mach Tuck' and Important Lessons Not To Be Forgotten 

While aircraft design and certification has certainly minimized the occurrence of Mach Tuck, there are many important lessons to be remembered from earlier investigations that apply to swept-wing training.

Understanding Mode Consequences 

The working group involved in the 2013 “Operational Use of Flight Path Management Systems” study found continued instances of pilots being unaware of the potential consequences of selection of certain FMS modes.

Study Makes Automation Recommendations 

In the interim, there are specific recommendations from the 2013 study that are worthy of consideration by business aviation operators:

First Seek out a true subject matter expert on your exact FMS who can provide you with the in-depth knowledge and skill necessary to operate the equipment expertly during line operations.

Second Maintain and improve knowledge and skills in manual flight operations.

Third improve autoflight mode awareness as part of an emphasis on flight path management.

On Managing Automation 

Cockpit automation is here to stay, and will probably increase in the future. Automated cockpit systems have contributed significantly to improvements in safety, operational efficiency, and precise flight path management, all welcome developments. Unfortunately accidents continue to point out vulnerabilities attendant to automation as well.

In Opposition 

As could have been expected, the FAA's new emphasis on identifying pilots with sleep issues, and with obstructive sleep apnea in particular, has drawn considerable opposition and commentary from a variety of pilot and aviation organizations, including the AOPA, NBAA, and Air Line Pilots Association.

Grim Proof 

The crash of a Hawker 800 at Owatonna, Minn., on July 31, 2008, that killed all eight persons aboard involved acute sleep loss, cumulative sleep debt and early start time for both the captain and first officer. The captain's health required excessive sleep and the first officer was suffering from insomnia, as well as self-medicating with prescriptive medicines for sleep.

Medical Concerns in International Travel 

Travel to foreign destinations carries an additional threat to one's health and medical certificate.

What Are the Sleep Tests Like? A First-Hand Account 

One of the first common screening tests used to determine if a patient is suffering from sleep apnea is done in bed using a blood oxygen sensor attached to one of your fingers. This “Overnight Oximetry on Room Air” records your pulse and blood oxygen saturation level throughout the night. The automated data analysis subsequently reports how many times your blood oxygen saturation level fell below certain levels. It is an easy and convenient test to take, and the advantage is that you get to sleep in your own home.

Keeping Your Medical Qualification 

To many professional pilots the six-month visit to the aviation medical examiner (AME) is an event full of fret, which is relieved only by award of a fresh medical certificate, allowing continued employment for another half year. It's no secret that some keep medical secrets from the FAA and others simply won't admit to themselves that they have a physical or mental problem that negatively affects their quality of life, health and cockpit performance.

Summary of Braking Techniques to Increase Longevity 

Minimize quick turn-arounds.

Fully release brakes during turn-arounds.

Don't drag a brake during taxi.

Consider single-engine taxi.

Use reverse thrust/flat pitch if allowed.

Anticipate the need to slow down and make necessary power changes ahead of time.

Minimize brake applications.

Apply a smooth, firm pressure to slow down the aircraft.

Land at the slowest speed consistent with safety.

Land on longer runways with the wind.

Hard Lessons 

Notably, the pilots involved in our 30-accident study were executing maneuvers quite common in everyday operations when LTE brought them down. The following accident summaries are presented to help pilots better understand this phenomenon and the common scenarios in which it can occur.

Hover Out of Ground Effect (HOGE)

Dec. 30, 2008, Panama City, Fla.

Aircraft: Schweizer 309C

Injuries: None

The Shenanigans Continue 

While the most recent of the studies cited in “Double Standards” is several years old, the problems delineated continue to this very moment. We have received credible reports about federal public aircraft being routinely operated past mandatory inspection and overhaul limits; outside weight, altitude and temperature limitations; into known icing condition without anti-ice or de-icing equipment; and being fitted with non-approved transparencies and automotive-grade ball bearings in prop governors.

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