Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Flight of the Phoenix - Common Sense - Safety?

Pilots and Flight Distraction Safety

After reading article after article trying to make excuses for napping on the job, the fact that pilots tire on flights where the plane flies itself is a case of boredom. Sure they tire and nap off. Scares the heck out of the general public. The fact folks will think twice about taking a commercial flight is what worries the FAA and commercial aviation interests.

If you are IFR rated, whether you're a commercial or private pilot, the instructions are the same. Unusual cockpit radio chatter and blinking displays, trying to get your attention, are not normal. Calls by cell phones ignored is not normal. If a pilot inadvertently does not change a Center mandated frequency, the Center is supposed to try and re-contact the aircraft on the previous frequency. 

Having a Center repeatedly contacting you while you are awake, is very hard to ignore, and not normal. Even while you are both busy staring at your laptops while the aircraft pushes along with a brisk tailwind, you should pick up that the communications you are listening to are not normal.

Even with your laptop screen adjusted for best visibility, you should see the screens in front of you, on the intrument panel, blinking rapidly to catch your attention coming in from the IFR Center. Thats not normal!

Even the passengers are no fools. How many were looking at their watches to see if they would land in time to make a connecting flight. 78 minutes late? The Flight Attendants themselves would be fielding so many questions they would break down the cockpit door to stop the questions of why they were on their way to Green Bay instead of landing at Minneapolis.

Why didn't the pilots respond, if according to what I have read, when the flight attendants knocked loudly on the door to the cockpit after trying to reach them on the intercom? If they were engrossed with their laptops at least one or both should have responded. Were they asleep?

 Sometime the fact that they were deep in sleep will come out. Why not tell the truth in the first place. Save everybody a lot of grief.

The continued coverage by the news services and asking the right questions will force the situation. Net result, people will avoid air travel for a little while, the yelling and screaming will subside, the airlines will lose money and laptops will be banned and the pilots will continue to catch catnaps on long boring flights. Only difference is the FAA will mandate the catnaps for the crew and mandate continual assurance that the plane is monitored by a crew member that is fully awake.Unfortunately, the pilots in question should be fired. Next time the result may 
not be pretty.