Richard Bach on spirit of flight

In the book Gift of Wings, Richard Bach writes about the people who look up to the sky to watch airplanes, people who slow down when driving past airports. He says, “If you act this way, it’s possible that in flight you’ll find much to learn of yourself and of the path of your life on this planet.” Of course, he’s right. Gentle words reminding us that the sky is a calling. A higher pursuit of man. And the sky, like the wilderness or the sea, requires our constant application and respect.

Why would a ship sail into a hurricane?

This time last year the American ship SS El Faro went down in a hurricane with the loss of all thirty-three crew (Wikipedia page). It seems impossible ‘in this day and age’ that such a thing could happen. It wasn’t a mechanical issue, or a rogue crew, or pirates, or a freak storm. The Washington Post reported one of the deck officers voiced concern prior to sailing, emailing friends and family, “there is a hurricane out here and we are heading straight into it.” Yankee magazine has published a deep read that is worth the time for any pilot to … Continue reading Why would a ship sail into a hurricane?

Light bulbs, red lines, and rotten onions

I’ve talked about the MV Hoegh Osaka incident before. A huge ship that left port out of balance and soon was grounded on the Bramble Bank sandbar off the Isle of Wight. The official British Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) report determined that a “fundamental principle of seamanship appears to have been allowed to drift, giving rise to potential unsafe practices.” Today I read an excellent analysis of the accident report and what it means for Safety Management Systems and safety/production balance in the real world. It’s titled Light bulbs, red lines, and rotten onions, by Nippin Anand. It was originally published in The Seaways of the … Continue reading Light bulbs, red lines, and rotten onions

Procedural drift and the sandbar

On 3 January 2015, the large ship MV Hoegh Osaka left the British port of Southhampton. An hour later she made a turn to port, then began listing markedly to one side. Soon enough the rudder and propellor were out the water. In flying terms, ‘departure from controlled float’ we could say. Fifteen minutes after the turn she was grounded on the Bramble Bank sandbar off the Isle of Wight. Settling down with a list that would eventually reach 52°. The ship was about half full, loaded with 1,200 Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles worth over $45 million. Now, this accident isn’t as serious as … Continue reading Procedural drift and the sandbar

The Secrets of the Wave Pilots

There is a wonderful long-read article in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine titled The Secrets of the Wave Pilots. It never mentions flying or airmanship, but it’s thought-provoking contemplative stuff for any aviator concerned about visual flying skills. And it’s an in-depth romp through animal navigation, GPS, modern brain science and almost lost ancient knowledge. The glue of the story is Alson Kelen, “potentially the world’s last-ever apprentice in the ancient art of wave-piloting”. That’s the science and art of navigating among the Marshall Islands with no modern tools. Once thought impossible, we know now that somehow it is possible, but … Continue reading The Secrets of the Wave Pilots