Pilots need to develop characteristics that will enable them to function professionally, safely and with confidence in the flight environment they operate in. They will need to recognize certain human properties and be able to deal with it. Medical conditions can influence the performance of the pilot so he/she needs some understanding of the most common issues.
Aircraft communications are accomplished using defined procedures developed by ICAO, this enhances safety and prevents unnecessary delays. Especially when aircraft might be in trouble for what ever reason. We take a look at those procedures and services.
Airmanship Sections :
Proficient airmanship is defined as:
"Airmanship is the consistent use of good judgment and well-developed skills to accomplish flight objectives. This consistency is founded on a cornerstone of uncompromising flight discipline and is developed through systematic skill acquisition and proficiency. A high state of situational awareness completes the airmanship picture and is obtained through knowledge of one’s self, aircraft, environment, team and risk.", Kern, T. (1996, Redefining Airmanship).
1-Decision Making Process
Flying is a series of events requiring you to make a continuous streams of decisions. One decision after another and the previous one influences the next one. Decisions like: We're low on fuel -> where is the nearest airport -> with the correct fuel type -> and so on.
These kind of decisions also happen throughout our whole lives, so that what we discuss here can be advantageous to other areas too.
Everyone flying an aircraft has, at one point or another in his or her flying career, has had to make decisions about fuel, weather diversion or even passenger well being.
Basic pilot airmanship and plain common sense are one of the most important factors here and these should be emphasised upon during initial and recurrent pilot training.
It is interesting to learn and to see how the human pilot interacts with the aircraft and operates in the flight environment.
Especially when the going get tough during night flights, turbulent or bad weather and other challenges for the pilot.
The interrelating aviation events we encounter are between people involved (cockpit crew), the aircraft, flight environment and these all occur over time. We can divide them into five parts:
Pilot - The pilot makes continuous decisions about his/her own competence and general feeling (health or fatigue).
Aircraft - The state of the aircraft is a huge source of information for the pilot on which he will base his decisions.
Environment - Environment is where the pilot and the aircraft operates. Think of weather, runway, traffic etc.
Operation - This is the interaction of the previous three items in terms of: is everything going as planned?
Situation - Basically, situation is knowing what's going on around you and the aircraft. Thus the sum of the above four items
The Situation is the sum of: Pilot, Aircraft, Environment and the Operation. Any situation is therefore affected by these four interrelated items. This relationship is the situational awareness of the pilot. The higher this is, the safer he or she is when acting as in that role.
ADM - Aeronautical Decision Making
Any decision making process is complex, but in this situation it can be broken down into six well known parts suited for our explanation:
Detect - the fact that we have a change
Estimate - the need to do something about it
Choose - a successful outcome
Identify - actions to control the change
Do - the identified action
Evaluate - effect of the action on the change
The above process DECIDE is not limited to aviation but can be applied on any situation in our lives. There are several items concerned with good decision making and safe flying. Pilot attitude, risk assessment skill, recognizing and handling stress, how to learn from and change behaviour and last but not least evaluating one's own decision making skills.
The DECIDE model is not very practical in case of an emergency where time may be running out or altitude is lost quickly. Decisions in emergencies must follow a shorter model with the unfortunate mnemonic DIE:
Detect the need for an action
Implement the response as dictated in emergency checklists
Evaluate the outcome of that response
Now you know why regular practice and a good review of emergency procedures are crucial. In a real emergency you might not have the time to implement the DECIDE model. Instinctive reaction might be needed to get the situation quickly under control. Training, training and more training on emergency procedures is necessary to counteract emergencies when needed.
2-Human Factors In Aviation
Human factors is a combination of aviation medicine, psychology, engineering and ergonomics. It encompasses all of these factors trying to understand the man/machine interface in the aircraft.
It has its roots in aviation accident investigations resolving these where no clear technical cause could be found when aircraft became more and more reliable over the years but kept falling out of the sky.
Today, this field focuses in accident prevention, pilot performance in the aircraft, ergonomics in cockpit design and it relates to the single pilot aircraft as to multi-pilot crew on long haul commercial operations.
These human factors have their influence on the decision making process by the pilot and the safe outcome of the flight, which should never be in doubt no matter what.
This section will deal with pilot performance, his/her fitness to fly and the effects of using drugs, and smoking on the human body.
Pilot performance is about a couple of factors: airmanship, personality, crew management. They relate to the pilot as a person, his or her ability to make good judgments and decisions and to be able to communicate effectively with others. Remaining cool and rational at all times and instill confidence in the crew and passengers.
The ability to show common sense, have the highest standards and good aviation skills. Meaning to fly the aircraft well, think clearly and make good and sound decisions so that the safe outcome of a flight is never in doubt. Clear communication skills and getting along with other pilots, maybe new to the operation, is very important as is to keep his/her cool in more difficult situations and being very professional as a pilot as to become a good example to others in the profession.
Defining the persons character properties. It is in part genetic and part learned through experience, education and the way we were brought up by our parents. For a part this can be modified, relearned if you wish. As we get older we (should) become more mature in our ways of thinking and our behavior in human relations and our job. This will not be for everyone though, sadly.
When aircraft were made of wood and men of steel, pilots were thought to be made of the right stuff when they where the stable extrovert type, capable of doing everything on their own, self reliant and they would not be caught making a stupid mistake. They just did not screw up. It was thought that this was the right personality.
But in this day and age with glass cockpits, fly by wire aircraft and a multi-pilot crew airline flying, the macho type of pilot has no place in it anymore. It is the wrong stuff. Accidents have happened just because of this lack of communication with other crew members.
A pilot in command needs to get on with other people, crew people for example. He or she is ultimately responsible for the aircraft, its safe operation and all onboard. The crew (the PIC is also a crew member) should co-operate as a well oiled machine, essential for safe flight and they should regularly follow line operations flight and crew resource management training to keep current.
Characteristics of a good pilot in command are amongst others, to be a good and competent pilot with firm technical knowledge about the aircraft and good flying skills, a good leader able to inspire others and getting the best out of his crew and consult them in the decision making process, always thinking ahead of the situation and making sound decisions.
Pilots should try to attain perfection in their flying, this applies to private and commercial pilots alike. Just aim to do it right always. Try to perfect your flying skills all the time and learn from your mistakes.
A nearly perfect pilot (is there such a thing as a perfect pilot?) is consistent, flexible, safe, accurate and dependable. He or she is also confident (not too much though) in their decisions. This pilot never stops learning from his own experience and from others too and tries to fly to the highest standards, improving along the way and be and sets examples for others and will always helps others in their career.
Characteristics of a not so perfect or sloppy pilot are: being a show off, careless, overconfident (a know it all or been there, done that type), rough handling of the aircraft, impulsive, takes risks, flies without regard to rules and regulations their by risking equipment and lives.
Aviation has no place for such persons. If any pilot wishes to show off, then do this by showing technical knowledge of the aircraft, being reliable, dependable, effective and with knowledge of procedures and good decisions. Just be professional!
3-Scanning & Illusions
Learning to operate an aircraft safely in the flight environment is essential. If we want to become a proficient, professional pilot and show this to our passengers in such a way that they feel safe flying with us. Then there are some things we need to become very good at.
First, we will discuss the one thing that is very important when flying: collision avoidance. I have had my share of near misses in the past, ranging from light twins to F-16 fighters, so looking out of the windows is one of my main priorities.
Remember that when two aircraft approach each other head on at 100 kts (not an uncommon speed) they travel over 3 miles per minute.
And with a visibility of 1.5 miles you will have less than 30 seconds to react before you see the other aircraft.... IF you were looking in the right direction.
As a pilot you need to be constantly aware of your aircraft and the environment where you fly in. Things as visual scanning, blind spots and basic turbulence avoidance as basic pilot skills, are emphasized here.
VFR means Visual Flight Rules. Visual means with the eyes. We therefore need a good lookout to remain clear of clouds and other objects in the air and make sure we do not fall into the trap of a visual illusion.
Scanning while flying
The most effective way to scan during daylight is through a series of short, spaced eye movements in 10 degree sectors starting from left to right. On the way back to your left to take a glance at the instrument panel to check what is happening before starting all over with this visual scan. During the outside scan it is wise to focus on distance objects on the ground before 'staring' into the blue sky. Else the phenomenon described below can arise very quickly.
Looking without seeing, empty field myopia
When looking into a featureless sky, be it grey haze or clear blue sky, the human eyes tend to focus on a point about 10 to 30 feet (3 to 10 meters) away, without you ever knowing/seeing it. Thus you are looking without really seeing anything. Probably missing a lot. No need to say that this can be very dangerous. To avoid this, when scanning in 10 degree steps from left to right also look at several points on the ground at different distances from the aircraft. This keeps the eyes focused on distance. Also avoid 'staring'.
Flying into the sun, especially during sunset and when there is a light haze, good scanning is very important. Aircraft or other objects are much more difficult to see when the sun is behind them (and in front of you) in such circumstances. Even when landing into such conditions. Wearing sunglasses that filter out the blue color of the spectrum (Serengeti drivers for example) can help a great deal and add to safety.
What you can't see sometimes really is there, aircraft blind spots
Aircraft blind spots are by design. There you have it, no more no less. High winged aircraft are great for sightseeing because the wing is on top of the aircraft. More fun when you have people aboard and they want to fly over their house and take pictures. Low wing aircraft have a great view of the sky but looking down can be a problem, but are great when turning to final as the runway remains in sight in contrary to a high wing aircraft.
Basically you have to keep the shortcomings of each design in mind. Not that there's anything wrong with it, but the wing (and the fuselage) gets in the way of the pilot who needs to see other traffic especially when flying near airports or other points of interest. Just be very aware of it and you'll do just fine.
When climbing with a high wing aircraft make shallow turns to watch for traffic overhead, the opposite goes for low wing aircraft in descents, just make shallow turns so that lower flying traffic can be spotted sooner.
On an VFR approach to an airport the situation could arise where a high wing aircraft is flying lower than a low wing aircraft. Especially when the low wing aircraft is descending to a reporting point and the high wing is flying level toward the same point. Both can not see each other and a collision could happen.
What you see sometimes looks quite different
Runways that are wider or narrower than we normally land on or even with an up or down slope can be very deceiving. We have made a table for you to sum up all these illusions. Just think about it and it will make sense.
During preflight, take note on how the destination airport is situated. With the above table in mind most surprises can be avoided (like trying to flare too high because the runway is twice as wide than the home airport, I have seen this happen with a student and the touchdown was a bit harder than we were used too).
4 Preparing For Takeoff
During the takeoff and startup and taxi section of the flight the actions of the pilot are based on numerous variables and his ability to process that information and take sound decisions based on that. During taxi and cruise, pilot workload is usually low and the situation is relaxed.
Later in the flight when the pilot gets tired his/her capabilities are reduced but at the same time the task requirements increase during descent to approach and landing. Afterwards when taxiing to the parking position the workload is much less and the pilot can relax again.
It can be of great assistance for the pilot to have a firm grasp on the indications he may expect from the aircraft in terms of performance so that if something doesn't add up he can take preventive action.
Managing All Factors
During preflight on the ground the pilot can prepare and make list of expected indications from the aircraft by thoroughly assessing the environment the flight is going to be executed in. To name but a few: air density, runway condition and wind direction all have their effects on the performance of engines, propeller and wings. For a checklist of these and other important items go to our section on aircraft performance.
Start-up & Taxi
Low workload situation: Should anything happen just stop and try to solve the problem. Without positive result the flight should be aborted and the aircraft taxied back to the hanger or parking position for inspection. In case of emergency everybody can get out of the aircraft without too much difficulty.
During this phase of the flight the pilot or crew checks the aircraft systems, sets up any needed navigational equipment (maps and or GPS) and gets ready for departure.
High workload situation: At this point the crew must have an idea of how the aircraft is going to perform. During power application and when the aircraft starts rolling the pilot must verify the runway heading, set the correct engine power and verify indications, see if airspeed comes alive and checks acceleration of the aircraft.
These takeoff indications are very important as the flight can be aborted while still on the runway and when ASDA is sufficient, the aircraft can then even be stopped on the runway. Which is called an ATO or Aborted TakeOff.
For a pilot to be prepared and to have an expectation of the performance of the aircraft we have separated the takeoff into several phases:
This section contains all preflight actions, aircraft inspection and ground operations up to when you are about to line up. The result of this is that the pilot must be aware of the actual pressure and density altitudes, runway lengths and runway required and the rotation and initial climb speeds.
All these factors can be deduced from the aircraft flight manual and or the pilot operations handbook. The result can be recorded in our document weight and balance performance data for quick reference during the flight, should it be needed or changes in the loading take place for any reason.
Power & Acceleration
At this point you are ready to apply full power (or the power recommended by the flight manual) and start the takeoff roll. Indications to look for are: airspeed alive, takeoff manifold pressure, propeller RPM, fuel flow / pressure and engine pressure and temperatures.
Taking off from airports at sea level and with full throttle the MAP (manifold air pressure) should indicate at or around 30 inHG, expect 1 inHG less due to obstructions in the system. Should you have a turbocharged engine, the indication may go up to 40 or even more inches.
With a constant speed propeller the RPM will go to maximum, usually around 2700 for direct drive Lycoming and Continentals. Rotax engines will show 5700 to 5800 RPM. Check the POH and note the RPM for full throttle.
Fuel flow/pressure indications can be found the POH, again check the POH and make note of this. Should you need to lean for maximum RPM and power due to takeoff from a high elevation airport, then these values will be lower. You may expect a MAP drop of around 1 inHG per 1000 ft of altitude/elevation with normally aspirated engines.
Calling 'Airspeed Alive' is self explanatory, if it fails, your pitot tube and or pitot static system has a problem and this system is essential for a safe flight. If you have enough runway avialable (check the ASDA) abort the takeoff and have it checked. Engine pressure and temperature indications may not exceed maximums as specified by the manufacturer.
Rotation & Climb
Make sure to have at least 2/3 of the takeoff speed at 1/2 the runway length, if not: abort the take-off. If airspeed indications are as expected rotate at the correct speed or when the aircraft 'wants' to fly (this depends on the applied takeoff technique), then pitch up to climb out at the correct VX speed for the calculated weight.
Due to ground effect the aircraft wants to liftoff below stall speed. There are two possibilities here: liftoff but remain in ground effect and accelerate to VX and climb away, or stay on the runway until reaching rotation speed before starting to climb.
After passing at least 200' AAL push the nose a bit forward (trim pitch down) and accelerate to VY and check engine pressure and temperatures. Continue until passing 500' AAL then check engine P/T, switch off the fuel pump, start to retract the flaps and pitch/trim for the cruise climb speed and power (usually around 2500 RPM and 25 inHG MAP), retrim if needed.
At this point you are climbing away from the airport and ready for the climb to cruise phase switch over.
Communications between pilots of aircraft and air traffic control are based on a document from ICAO published in Annex 10 Volume 2 (Communications Procedures) to the Convention on International Civil Aviation and ICAO PANS-ATM (Procedures for Air Navigation Services - Air Traffic Management) Doc. 4444.
The manual we present here is from the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority and it is free for everyone. It is based on the ICAO documentation and expands where misunderstanding could arise in ICAO praseology. I feel its therefore even better.
Eurocontrol has published a 'Guide to phraseology for general aviation pilots in Europe' it is a full color presentation in pdf format (9 MB). Very useful as a reference manual after studying the CAP 413.For commercial pilots we also have a quick reference guide, it is a supplement to CAP 413 for commercial air transport pilots.
Radio Telephony Manual
Below the UK CAA CAP413 document, edition 21 of July 2013 and 357 pages in size (2.1 MB). Notwithstanding the fact that this document was written for the UK its good reading for all pilots.
Excerpt from the document:
The aim of the United Kingdom Radiotelephony Manual (CAP 413) is to provide pilots, Air Traffic Services personnel and other ground personnel, both civil and military, with a compendium of clear, concise, standardised phraseology and associated guidance, for radiotelephony (RTF) communication in United Kingdom airspace.
During an emergency requiring immediate action the pilot in command may deviate from any aviation rule to the extend required to meet that emergency. The law is quite clear on that. He is not alone in this situation, there are a number of services available to the pilot that may be used to help counter any problems during the flight.
If during an emergency the pilot deviates from an ATC clearance the PIC must notify ATC as soon as possible and obtain an amended clearance. This is also clear: deal with the emergency first then tell them what happened, be prepared to submit a report if requested.
The pilot in command is the final authority and directly responsible for the safe operation of the aircraft. The regulations are clear on that too. So in an emergency the crew and passengers must obey the PIC, basically he is the boss.
An emergency is either a distress or urgency condition needing action and pilots should not hesitate to declare an emergency when confronted with such a situation. A good example is running low on fuel, e.g. less than one hour on board. This is called an urgency situation. A distress situation follows when the engine really quits and a landing is emminent.
Pilots should not hesitate to immediately request assistance. In this section we take a look on what services are available to the PIC should any emergency ever arise.
The aviation community has developed a number of technologies to help an aircraft in an emergency situation. Radar services, transponders, ELT, direction finding equipment, emergency locators and intercept and escort services. And last but not least there are search and rescue services equipped with the right tools.
VFR aircraft in difficulty can request radar assistance and navigation services from ATC when the pilot is able to communicate with them. But keep in mind that you need to remain VFR, a clearance which would take you into clouds should be declined and ATC notified. This radar service is in effect navigational assistance, you still remain responsible as the PIC.
Most VFR pilots did not have enough training to be able to fly safely on instruments. It is therefore wise to keep the controller advised about the weather conditions you currently are experiencing.
If at all possible select a course of action that will allow you to perform a safe landing in VFR conditions. Should you have a current IFR rating and the aircraft is also IFR equipped then you can proceed under IFR conditions. If not, consider declaring a distress situation if the circumstances do not allow a safe flight.
When the pilot declares a distress or emergency situation the transponder should be set to mode A/3 code 7700, mode 3/C altitude and if equipped on Mode S and contact the nearest ATC facility. Radar installations will trigger an alarm when they detect code 7700, or any other special designated transponder code.
Be careful not to inadvertently select any of these codes when changing your transponder to another code. Make sure to set it to standby first, set the new code and only then put it back to ALT.
Follow the next link to learn more about using and setting codes and operating aircraft transponders in general in our homebuilt section.
Direction finding (DF) equipment has long been used to help pilots, locate lost aircraft and guide them to VFR weather. The only requirement is that the airport has direction finding equipment, basically a special antenna and radio receiver with an indicator.
For VFR pilots it is helpful to practice these DF steers, of course do that in VFR conditions and possibly with an instructor on board.
These devices emit a downward sweep on designated frequencies and are monitored by the Cospass-Sarsat satellite system. They can be manually activated but have a crash detector (G-force switch). When activated they can transmit aircraft data, position and such. More on this in our range of articles on aircraft distress beacons.
7-Transitioning Between Aircraft
We are going to spend time and space to see what is involved when pilots transition to other aircraft with significantly different flight characteristics than he or she is customary with. Be that from the small two seat trainer to a larger four place model with a higher powered engine and with controllable propellers.
Or moving on to a multi-engined aircraft with higher take-off weights and number of seats. These aircraft have different operating procedures, higher performance and other flight properties than the pilot is accustomed with thus requiring further training with a qualified instructor.
Accident records have shown that pilots take unnecessary risks attempting to fly a different type of aircraft without familiarizing themselves with the idiosyncrasies, limitations and systems. Even when the pilot has a rating but is not current on the type, it pays to go out with an instructor familiar with the type you wish to fly.
This part of the site will emphasize the importance of the training needed when pilots transition to these higher performance and sometimes more complex aircraft. Although most private pilots will fly one or two different aircraft models, those training for CPL and higher licenses will certainly find themselves transitioning every now and then.
Step By Step
As airplanes become more and more complex it will be apparent that the pilot changing to another make or model aircraft, that they need training to familiarize with different flying characteristics. Although most cockpits feature similar controls, that may lead persons to believe that pilot competency can be carried on from one type to another.
Regardless of weight, speed, radio and navigation systems, performance characteristics, limitations and operating procedures.
With aircraft, size does not matter. Familiarity is the key. Pilots flying transport type airplanes wishing to fly smaller two seat type Cessna's also need a checkout equally to those wishing to upgrade to larger iron. Whichever the case may be, a number of items are considered important during pilot transitioning training, as we will see below.
Time spent studying the pilot operation handbook or aircraft flight information manuals is really valuable. The pilot must have a thorough understanding of the fuel, electrical and or hydraulic systems, basic empty and maximum allowable weights plus loading schedule and engine emergency procedures.
Normal and emergency flap and landing gear operations and of course knowledge of the preflight inspection is essential to the transitioning pilot.
Arrange to just sit in the cockpit when the aircraft is not scheduled to fly. Study and memorize the panel layout, engine and flight controls. Verify the location of any switches and indicators and radio / navigation equipment. Do this until you can find all controls practically blindfolded, this will help during the actual flight training.
A very important point: obtain the services of a qualified checkout pilot or flight instructor with a current rating for the aircraft you wish to transition too. They should also be capable to effectively communicate the pilot techniques for safe operation of the airplane.
During flight training its important to learn the V-speeds, practice take-offs and landings in different configurations and circumstances including crosswind situations to the limit of the aircraft.
High performance complex aircraft usually have one or more engine(s) equipped with constant speed propellers, retractable gear and flaps. Pilots must have a thorough understanding of the proper combinations of propeller (RPM) and engine power settings (MAP). The engine manufacturer has set limits on Brake Mean Effective Pressure (BMEP) of the cylinders, pistons and cylinder walls so that damage is prevented. The correct order of manipulating power and propeller controls makes sure that these limitation will not be exceeded, this can not be emphasized enough.
Usually with small two seat training aircraft the all up weight will normally not change a lot except when flying solo. With larger aircraft all seats may not be filled with passengers and this will surely change between several flights and as a result changing handling properties for the pilot. Its therefore an advantage if during transitioning training the aircraft is loaded to gross weight or maximum all up weight and also flown at minimum weight on several occasions and different circumstances.
Weight and balance calculations for different loading situations should also be part of this training.
When the transition training is completed have a proficiency checkout arranged with another qualified safety pilot or instructor / examiner. Most requirements for aircraft ratings will include this.
To obtain or to a refresher training for any aircraft rating you need to comply with the rules laid out by the aviation authorities of the country you fly in, make sure you are up to speed on those rules.