Celestial navigation is back!

Redundancy is the best policy. Lt. Alex Reardon US Naval Academy instructor. And by redundancy I don’t think he means two GPS units! The US Navy, who has long relied on GPS and electronic mapping for all navigation needs, is now going to start spending valuable teaching time on something really old school—sextants and celestial navigation. I’m not suggesting we all start leaning how to shoot the stars (something that remained an airline skill up to the first B747s), but the idea that we can continue to fly should we have total loss of GPS and electronic nav is strong. We … Continue reading Celestial navigation is back!

Automation and the FAA/NTSB

I’m going to let the dust settle before addressing this issue fully. But right now the Washington Post has a great article on the FAA/NTSB automation debate. And the full FAA IG report is online here. “We’ve recommended that pilots have more opportunity to practice manually flying the aircraft.” Robert L. Sumwalt, who spent 32 years as an airline pilot before joining the NTSB in 2006.  

A340 engine shutdown video

YouTube has a great 15-minute video of an Airbus A340 crew running ECAMs and checklists that results in shutting down an engine in flight. For real. It’s been viewed a bunch of times, but I hadn’t seen it till today, so maybe you haven’t either. It’s an interesting, thought provoking experience. The Swiss airline crew were being filmed by PilotsEye.tv for a high-quality video production of their Zurich to Shanghai flight. But during climb out the number three engine oil temperature starts to gently rise. It’s not TOPGUN, but rather a rare invitation for an intimate look at how professional … Continue reading A340 engine shutdown video

Flight controls free and correct?

You have a religion that says if I want to live, I’m going to run the checklist. Robert Hulse Last week the NTSB released lots of details on a fatal accident that will keep lawyers and human factors academics busy for years. It involves rich high-profile (newspaper publisher) passengers, an iconic Gulfstream IV jet, the failure of a basic airplane safety system and the repeated failure of basic airmanship. Maybe the best account of this two-factor crash is the online piece Deadly Failure On The Runway by McCoy and Purcell of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Fascinating reading. (The NTSB press release … Continue reading Flight controls free and correct?

Murphy was deeper than you guessed

“It is found that anything that can go wrong at sea generally does go wrong sooner or later.” This was written by Alfred Holt in 1877, in an engineering report on using steam engines at sea. The phrase has become known as ‘Murphy’s Law’ for reasons unclear. But the original report is deeper and more insightful than I ever would have guessed. The same paragraph also says, “Sufficient stress can hardly be laid on the advantages of simplicity.” “The human factor cannot be safely neglected in planning machinery.” “It is almost as bad to have too many parts as too … Continue reading Murphy was deeper than you guessed