Friday, May 15, 2015

Drive in the Country or Tumble Through the Sky; Acrobatic Pilot Rob Holland's Flying Lessons

I made the one hour drive on the beautiful back roads of New England, rounding the curves and ascending the hills. Distracted by spring in full bloom, I struggled to concentrate on the road ahead. 

By the time I arrived at Westfield Municipal Airport and introduced myself to acrobatic pilot Rob Holland I was exhausted and we had yet to fly.

That’s what sustained focus will do to you.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Suicidal/Homicidal Pilots and the Challenge of Trying to Fix Unknown Unknowns

Andreas Lubitz from Facebook
The chilling news that pilot Andreas Lubitz had already tried the controlled descent into terrain of an airliner prior to the successful crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 on March 23, threatens to overwhelm other facts that put the bizarre case into perspective.

In the just released report by the French Civil Aviation Safety Investigation Authority, investigators say the flight data recorder shows that on the first leg of the round trip between Dusseldorf and Barcelona, the 27 year old first officer set the selected altitude to 100 feet several times; while the plane was at cruise at 37 thousand feet, after it was cleared to descend to 35 thousand feet and again when controllers instructed the crew to descend to 21 thousand feet. During this four minute period, the captain was not in the cockpit.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Federal Investigators Find Oversight Lacking in Air Ambulances

Air Methods helicopter prior to crash that killed 4 in 2011
The attention of the flying public may be riveted to events like Malaysia 370 and Germanwings Flight 9525 but when it comes to hazards, helicopter ambulances are second only to combat flying. In other words, orders of magnitude riskier than traveling in an airliner.

The fine levied against America's largest operator of emergency medical helicopters exposes once again the gap between what the air ambulance industry promises and what it delivers. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Germanwings "No Right to Rule Out Other Hypotheses"

BEA's chief Remi Jouty
As if awaking from a stunned stupor, (incapacitation with breathing perhaps?) the Bureau d'EnquĂȘtes et d'Analyses, the French air safety investigatory authority, has suddenly spoken. After six days in which French law enforcement has all but wrapped up the case of the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525, the spokeswoman for the BEA has told The New York Times, her agency's ire was focused on the shocking leak of the content of the cockpit voice recorder, but had no statement about the appropriateness of concluding the cause of the accident without recovering crucial pieces of evidence.

That wise disclaimer was left for Jean-Pierre Michel an official with the judicial police who, in one of the only moderate statements to emerge from this fiasco told the Times, “we have no right today to rule out other hypotheses including the mechanical hypotheses, as long as we haven’t proved that the plane had no problems.”

Friday, March 27, 2015

Attending the Flight School of Andreas Lubitz

Astute readers of Flying Lessons may remember that in the fall of 2010, I published here a series of posts about the week I spent as a student at the Airline Training Center of Arizona, the flight school owned and operated by Lufthansa. (I also wrote about it for The New York Times.) This was the same flight school and at the same time that Andreas Lubitz was first learning to fly powered aircraft.