Sunday, August 17, 2008

Text appeal

Controller praised for texting pilot down safely

FIVE PEOPLE on a flight from Kerry to Jersey received mobile phone text instructions from a quick-thinking air traffic controller when he guided them in to a safe landing at Cork.

In what air accident investigator John Hughes described in his report yesterday as a "serious incident", the twin-engined Piper plane lost all onboard electrical power, communications and weather radar soon after take-off from Kerry airport on November 7th last.

He paid tribute to the initiative of the air traffic controller, saying the loss of all aircraft electrics during a flight "is considered very serious".

I'm assuming it was a Piper much like this, and flying IFR.

Excellent work, but I do want to point out that there is no manned aeroplane I'm aware of that requires a radio to fly. The controller seems to get a lot of praise here, but I do want to draw the analogy of the pig and the chicken making bacon and eggs for breakfast. When it comes to the quality of the meal, although the chicken is certainly interested, the pig has a somewhat deeper level of commitment.

En Route Supplement Australia (ERSA)

Yes, I'm aware that the incident occurred in Ireland, and I am quoting the Australian rules, but both countries are ICAO compliant, so the rules couldn't be that different.

The rules state that in the event of a comms/navaid failure (which a total electrical failure certainly is,) the actions to take are as follows;

i) Squawk 7600

Set the transponder to 7600, indicating a radio failure on the controllers consoles. A pointless action in this case, as the transponder is electrically powered.

ii) Listen out on ATIS and/or voice modulated NAVAIDS

It's possible to transmit voice over many radio beacons normally used only for navigation, and one of the actions when a pilot selects a NAVAID is to identify that the correct frequency has been tuned by listening to the morse code that is being transmitted. Some aerodromes transmit their ATIS information, which indicates weather conditions among other things, over the nearest NDB.

Again, a pointless action in this case - the radios are electrically powered, and haven't we already established that all the sparks and blue smoke fell out of the box? Yes we did.

iii) Transmit intentions and normal position reports (assume transmitter is operating and prefix calls with "TRANSMITTING BLIND".) If possible leave/avoid controlled/restricted airspace and areas of dense traffic.

Many times the radio will fail to receive transmissions, giving the impression to the pilot of a complete failure, but will actually transmit just fine. Hence the instructions to transmit "BLIND." Shouldn't that be deaf? Anyway, another pointless instruction in this case because the pilot was in the dark. He really was blind.

(iv) As soon as possible, establish visual navigation.

By the sound of it, this is pretty much what the pilot did, along with the second part of instruction iii, to avoid dense airspace.

(v) Land at the most suitable aerodrome.

Sound advice that last bit, but how to find it without NAVAIDS, and to know if you're going to run into anyone with coordinating with a controller?

Most professional pilots I know carry a handheld radio for this situation. Using a mobile phone is also a good option, if you have a couple of appropriate phone numbers handy. It can be difficult to hear above the noise of the engines in a lot of general aviation aircraft, so the use of text is a not bad, if not preferred option. Ever had a miscommunication via text? Don't text and drive, how about texting while flying?

I had one instructor who had an attachment for his headset to allow him to use his mobile phone in flight. At first it was disconcerting to have him say on final "you land it, mate, I'm just going to take this call." Who said you can't use your mobile during takeoff and landing?


At 9:56 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some schools base their prices on the FAA minimum-time requirements, such as 40 hours for a private certificate.
cheapest flight training school


Post a Comment

<< Home