News

PilotWorkshops.com Acquires ZD Publishing and their Pilot-Friendly GPS Manuals

Here’s a copy of a press release regarding our recent acquisition of ZD Publishing:

PilotWorkshops.com Acquires ZD Publishing and their Pilot-Friendly GPS Manuals

Nashua, NH – Feb 5, 2013 – PilotWorkshops.com LLC has purchased the assets of ZD Publishing including copyrights and inventory of ZD’s 21 different Pilot-Friendly GPS Manuals. Written by ZD Publishing founder John Dittmer, an ATP-rated CFI, these manuals have been trusted by thousands of pilots to help them master their panel-mount and handheld GPS units produced by Garmin and Bendix/King. The entire inventory of manuals is now available from PilotWorkshops in download or print format at https://pilotworkshop.comgps-manuals

“We’ve been working closely with ZD Publishing since 2011 and have received tremendous feedback from our customers who have purchased their manuals. In particular, pilots appreciate the task-oriented nature that quickly gets to the root of what a pilot needs from their GPS. They focus on getting something done as opposed to the ‘buttonology’ focus in many manufacturer manuals,” said Mark Robidoux, President of PilotWorkshops. “In particular, we’ve talked with many IFR pilots who are frustrated that they are only using a small fraction of their GPS unit’s capability because of difficulties in learning some of the more complex operations. Gaining mastery of those operations is the core value these manuals provide.”

“We’re proud of our contribution in helping pilots become proficient with their GPS units,” stated John Dittmer, President of ZD Publishing. “We know PilotWorkshops can do a good job of carrying the “Pilot-Friendly” message forward as they had quickly become our largest distributor.” Dittmer will continue to write manuals and updates for PilotWorkshops in the future.

PilotWorkshops.com LLC was founded in 2005 and is best-known for their free “Pilot’s Tip of the Week” emails received by over 100,000 pilots each week. Created by their roster of nationally known flight instructors and experts, these tips cover single pilot IFR operations, weather, airmanship, ATC communications, emergencies and more using a unique, multi-media format. PilotWorkshops also creates and sells a range of pilot proficiency programs including their IFR Mastery scenario-based training.

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Flying to Sun-n-Fun with Wally

Wally's Mooney

Each week, I review our Pilot Tips before we publish them on the internet. I always appreciate the advice that our instructors have to offer, as I know our subscribers do as well.

Whenever I have a chance to fly with one of these expert aviators, I jump at it. So when Wally Moran asked me to join him on a flight from his home in South Carolina to Sun-N-Fun in March, I happily accepted. We would be flying the trip in his pristine 1966 Mooney M20C which was great news for me, since I have little time in this type. What a great opportunity, fly with Wally Moran and log some Mooney time!

We departed KDYB Airport in Summerville, SC at 7:00 am sharp for the 321 NM trip to Florida. The weather was perfect along the entire route. We didn’t see a single cloud or hit a bump during the two hour and forty minute flight. We had better than 20 miles visibility the whole way down to Florida. This was the just the kind of smooth, uneventful and relaxing flight that pilots live for.

While the trip was uneventful, it wasn’t without lessons to be learned. The teaching points didn’t come from the weather, ATC, traffic or anything we encountered along the way. In fact, the lessons came more from what we didn’t experience. I picked up some great pearls of wisdom observing how Wally Moran prepares for a cross-country flight.

In no particular order, here are some lessons I took away from my trip with Wally.

File IFR. Even though we were assured excellent VFR weather for the entire trip, Wally insisted on filing an IFR flight plan. I probably would have gone VFR, choosing the ease and convenience of going “direct” on my own terms. In hindsight, filing IFR was the better choice for a number of reasons. First, it assured that we would remain clear of TFRs and restricted airspace that are common along our intended route. It also guaranteed traffic separation and preferred routing as we neared Lakeland Linder Regional Airport on the busiest arrival day of Sun-N-Fun. The cost was less than 10 minutes of additional flying along our “protected” route.

Fly high. I know Wally has always been an advocate of flying as high as possible, but I really understand why after taking this trip with him. Before we departed, Wally calculated that at our filed altitude we would be within gliding distance of an airport for the entire trip, with the exception of one 5-minute stretch over Georgia. WOW…now that is some serious airmanship! It was a real eye opener. I like to fly high as well, but I don’t exercise that kind precision in my planning. What a comforting thing, knowing that we could safely make it to an airport if we had engine trouble for most of the trip. We used the “nearest” function on the Garmin 430W to validate this along our route. Wally pointed out the 5-minute period where we were “out of” gliding distance to an airport. The other 2 hours and 35 minutes when we were “in” gliding distance was more relaxing. What a great safety margin to build into your flight plan.

Plan early, plan often.  Another thing that struck me was how prepared we were for the flight. It seems I’m always rushing out to the airplane and pulling everything together at the last minute before I make a trip. This causes extra stress and possible preflight oversights. Wally’s preflight process was completely different. Everything was done the day before our flight. Weight and balance calculated, weather briefings completed (starting 2 days before the flight), preflight completed, route planned and analyzed, flight plan filed, cockpit organized.

Everything was ready to go! The only thing we did on the morning of the flight was make a final check of the weather and a final preflight inspection before departing. As a result, we were not rushed and “behind” the airplane before starting the engine (as I have felt on many occasions). It’s a great way to start your flight.

Who does what? Wally knew I had little time in a Mooney and wanted me to get the most of this experience, so he offered to work the radios and free me up to focus on flying the airplane. He divided up the pilot duties in such a way that it was very clear who was responsible for what. We discussed this prior to departure and there was never any doubt what my role and focus was for the entire trip. It’s good for multiple pilots to fly as a “crew”, but is critical that the tasks are divided logically and briefed completely before the flight to eliminate any confusion. This is a professional approach to flying with multiple pilots.

These are a few lessons I took from this flight. Overall, I was most impressed with Wally’s overall approach to the trip. He treated the mission in such a way that a majority of the risks were eliminated before we departed through planning and preparation. When you fly with an aviator of Wally stature, you can’t help but learn from them – even when the mission appears simple. I’m grateful for having had this opportunity.

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Listen Up ATC

While returning from Sun and fun in Lakeland Florida last month on an IFR flight plan, I was disappointed to hear several lectures from the ATC controllers to the enroute pilots. Yes, it was extra busy as it was Sunday the last day of the show and there were lots of planes out there trying to get some attention. But the lectures I heard from ATC did nothing to help the situation.

Almost every frequency I used on that flight had an ATC comment something like “Everyone listen up out there,” “Don’t all try to talk at once,” One fellow was so frustrated that he said “ Don’t anyone talk, just listen, I will do all the talking and you do the listening.” Not a very professional solution to the problem and in fact these lectures simply wasted air time and made the situation worse.

While I can clearly understand the frustration that the controllers were experiencing, I would like to remind them that we as pilots have already been trained to listen up. The greatest percentage of problems are not caused by pilots not listening up, it is the fact that with multiple users on one frequency, no one can tell exactly when the next guy is going to push that transmit button. So we often wind up pushing it at the same time. That is what was happening this day in Florida. This is nobody’s fault; it is just a product of our party line type communication system.

In my years of flying into and out of many very busy airports populated with skilled controllers and professional pilots, blocked transmissions still occurred on a regular basis. This is not because the pilots did not know to listen up; they just can’t tell when the other guy is going to push that button. Some of the best ATC controllers I have worked with take control the conversation when things get very busy. For example; they will ask pilots to hold their read back while they issue multiple clearances and then get the pilots one at a time to confirm the read back.

Now I know that there are some pilots who are so poor at communication that they may need a lecture and perhaps even remedial work. When that is the case, please give them a phone number and do that work off the air.

So pilots, let’s pause a moment to organize our thoughts before we push that button and of course listen. Mr. ATC controller, please don’t give us lectures on the frequency as they won’t improve the situation. We all need to work together to make this system work.

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VSI – Use a fortune teller to improve your flying

Most of our instruments tell us where we are – not where we are going to be.  For example, the altimeter tells us we are at 7000 feet or the airspeed indicator tells us we are at 120 knots.  However, one of our instruments can see into the future. No, this is not a fancy computer with lots of data, but a simple instrument which almost never fails. It is the vertical speed indicator (VSI).

This often ignored and sometimes scorned instrument can truly make you a more precise and smoother pilot. For example, if you are trying to hold altitude and you see the vertical speed indicator showing a 200 FPM descent, guess what?  I can now predict that in 30 seconds you will be 100 feet off your altitude. See how it predicts the future? So if you heed this prediction and make a little correction, you will maintain your altitude. That is one way we can use a fortune teller to improve our flying.

As an instructor it is painful to watch a pilot doing slow flight and have the altitude and speed on for the moment, but not realize that the vertical speed is showing 200 or 300 FPM down. They seem so proud to be on the numbers but are unaware that if they don’t do something soon they will be out of limits. So, as we sink slowly below the PTS limits, they add a little power, but usually not enough to get that VSI needle pointing back up. Finally after we are well below our altitude they add enough power to get a climb going and guess what, here we go right through our altitude and up beyond the limit on the other side. Using the vertical speed as a fortune teller in this maneuver tells you where that altimeter will be in a minute or two. Good information to know. Watching the altimeter only tells you what’s already happened.

Same thing works on steep turns. If you establish a pitch attitude that gives you zero on the vertical speed indicator, you will hold your altitude. While pitch attitude is the primary focus on steep turns, the vertical speed indicator will still predict where you will soon be if nothing changes.

When making an approach with a glide slope (GPS or ILS), the vertical speed indicator is essential to staying on the glide slope. Again it will predict deviations before they are displayed on the glide slope indicator. If the required descent rate is 500 FPM and I notice that the vertical speed has just changed to 200 FPM, I can predict the next thing that will happen is that I will start getting high on the glide slope. If I recognize that the vertical speed is not correct and fix it before the glide slope needle moves, I don’t have to make two corrections. One correction to get back on the glide slope and another to return to the proper rate of descent.

We all know that it takes a constant descent rate to stay on the glide slope and the one instrument in the cockpit that tells us that information is the vertical speed indicator. When I began to realize that the vertical speed indicator was great at predicting where the glide slope needle was going to go next, my ILS approaches got much better.

So why don’t pilots pay more attention to the vertical speed? Maybe it is because there instructor told them not to pay any attention to it because it has a lag in its response. I was told that on my first lesson and it took me about 30 years of flying to realize that instructor was wrong. Yes, there is a small lag in the vertical speed indicator but it still predicts the future better than any other instrument I know of.

So if you want to stay ahead of your airplane, learn to get more use out of the instrument that predicts the future.

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Split Flap Emergency

This is a guest post from Jim Reed (Lt. Col. USAF Ret.) author of, “Turning Final, A Life Complete”

Here is an example of an unwritten rule that I have used for years:

If you’ve just done something and everything falls apart, put everything back where it was.

As simple as it sounds, most folks won’t do that unless they have been trained to do it.

Here is a story that supports that theory. It is an excerpt from my book:

One morning, after an early flight, I stopped off at D’s Restaurant at the Sonoma County Airport to grab some breakfast. I happened to sit at the counter next to Kentucky Pentegrast, a man whom I had met through Hugh. He owned a small twin and told me that he hadn’t made a decent landing in six months and asked if I would be willing to go along with him someday and try to figure out what he was doing wrong.

I said sure I would, and that, in fact, I wasn’t doing anything at that moment. So after breakfast, we went out to his plane and took off north to a small landing strip next to the lumber mill at Cloverdale. As we came down final, I watched to see if I could detect anything that Kentucky was doing that might aggravate the landing, but everything looked pretty good and we made a satisfactory touchdown.

We made the touch and go and I sat there with my arms folded looking at the surrounding scenery as we made a right turn and thought, “Gosh, those hills are awfully close for us to be turning into them.” I looked at Kentucky and could not believe what I saw. Although he had all of the control inputs for a left turn, WE WERE TURNING RIGHT. His mouth was open, his eyes were wide and he had a look of terror on his face.

I instinctively reverted to the training the Air Force had drummed into me – if you’ve just done something and everything starts to fall apart, put everything back where it was! Since we had just made a touch and go and had retracted the gear and flaps, I reached over without asking Kentucky and extended the gear and flaps. The controls started working again and, after some experimentation, I determined that only the flap on one wing had retracted from the full flap landing.

The other had stayed full down and we had experienced a split flap. Kentucky told me later that throughout all of his training, he had never even heard the term ‘Split Flap’.

We left the flaps down, returned to Santa Rosa and landed. His problem with landings over the past six months was obviously a result of that flap partially hanging up either going up or going down. This time it decided to hang up while it was full down, and I’m convinced that if I hadn’t been with Kentucky that day he would not have survived that incident.

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Stall Training

There has been a lot of talk recently about stalls. For example, the recent reports about the Airbus A-330 that crashed in the Atlantic between Brazil and Paris. Here apparently we had an airplane inadvertently flown into a deep stall by the pilot and for whatever reason he continued nose up inputs until the airplane crashed. Then there is the Colgan Air accident in NY state. In this case the aircraft entered an unintentional stall and instead of pushing the yoke forward, the pilot continued to pull back putting the aircraft into a deep stall.

We all know the proper procedure is to lower the nose and add full power to recover from a stall, yet here we have experienced pilots doing exactly the opposite. Why would they do this? I can’t say for certain but I have some thoughts on the subject.

In the past I have trained many glider pilots in a trusty old training glider that is so gentle when it stalls that it is actually hard to recognize. Later we switched to a glider that had more normal stall characteristics, that is, the nose would drop and so would a wing if you weren’t perfectly coordinated. Guess what many of our pilots did when they saw that nose going down and the glider beginning to rotate. They pulled back on the stick and cranked aileron in against the turn!! They all knew the correct response but when they saw the ground coming up at them they did the wrong thing just like the pilots in the recent airline accidents.

Today and for many years we have trained pilots to recover at the first indication of a stall. The theory being that if the stall is caught at this point there is no need to learn further recovery procedures. Unfortunately this deprives the pilots the sensation of seeing that nose go down and learning how to fix it. Interesting that full stalls are required training by the FAR’s for pre solo students but are never mentioned again unless one trains to be a CFI.

I wonder how many pre solo students actually get proficient at full stalls? Guess what, airline pilots don’t get the benefit of doing full stalls either. Air line pilots are taught to recover at the activation of the stall warning. So it is possible for an airline pilot to fly their entire career without ever actually stalling the plane. Then we wonder why they don’t respond properly when faced with this situation.

Because of these recent accidents there are now proposals to require full stall training at the airlines. I hope the FAA responds favorably to these proposals and adds the requirement for full stall training for airlines as well as general aviation. In the meantime, there is no reason for us not to make this a training requirement of our own. If you have not experienced full stall practice recently, I strongly encourage you to find a competent CFI and get to work.

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Air Force One Go Around!

As my good friend Bob Martens is fond of saying, the Go Around is the least practiced maneuver in Aviation.

During initial training as student pilots, the instructor teaches us the Go Around.  The Practical Test Standards (PTS) require us to demonstrate the Go Around/Rejected Landing maneuver.  The FAA objective for the task is “Makes a timely decision to discontinue the approach to landing”.  Virtually every rating, endorsement or flight test will require a Go Around.  Instrument students practice endless missed approaches, which is really just a Go Around under the hood.

For many pilots, the last checkride, however long ago, was the last time they performed a Go Around.

Why is that?  Do we view a Go Around as failure?  Somehow, are we less of a pilot because we acknowledged that the approach was not going properly forcing us to break off and try again?  Are we afraid that we may upset a passenger who may be a nervous flyer?   Or, do we think “I can make this work – just a little slip and we’ll land long.”

Maybe it is the fear of looking bad to other pilots.  A Go Around can disrupt the Tower’s pattern by forcing the Controller to reset the sequence.  At our local non-towered field, the airport gang is watching and commenting on everyone’s landing from the lounge chairs.  Are we afraid of the taunting of the airport gang?

Well, suppose you are flying the most famous airplane in the world – Air Force One.  Moreover, you have the Leader of the Free World – the President of the United States – in the back.  As you make your approach, the press and public are lining the runways and ramps.  TV cameras are recording your every move.  The approach is not going the way you would like.  Do you try to salvage the approach or execute a Go Around?  Imagine the pressure on the Pilot in Command of Air Force One.

This is exactly what happened to the crew of Air Force One several weeks ago at Bradley International Airport.  As is typical in many incidents, it started with something nonstandard.  ATC gave the flight a “Direct to the Airport” clearance rather than the usual arrival route.  This put them in closer and higher than normal.  Compounding the situation was an area of precipitation on the final approach course that required a deviation off the localizer. They turned back onto final but too close and too high to the Final Approach fix (FAF) for a stabilized approach. You can listen to the exchange here courtesy of LiveATC.Net.

Kudos to the crew; they realized that the approach was unstabilized and executed a missed approach – knowing that it would make headlines on the Evening News. Compare that to the ribbing you would get from the airport lounge gang.

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Airplane Taxi Tips

The recent taxi accident between an Airbus A-380 and a regional jet at JFK serves as a reminder that taxiing our aircraft can be a dangerous endeavor. Just think about the potential of all that fuel in the wing of the A-380 had it been ruptured. Now I don’t know where the A-380 was in relation to the center line that night but I bet that Captain hopes that the investigation indicates he was right on it.

We don’t yet know the cause of this accident and I am not taking sides, but I do have compassion for that Airbus Captain, because taxiing a wide body aircraft at night in the rain is in my view a lot more difficult than landing the plane.

One alleged expert was quoted on a news program as saying the problem with the new airplanes is that the winglets obscure the pilot’s vision while taxiing. Sadly, this expert has apparently never taxied a wide body airplane.

While I have never taxied an A-380, I have a lot of taxi time in a Boeing 747 and I can confirm that learning to taxi the airplane safely presented a big challenge and was the subject of considerable training. Since all the wheels and most of the airplane are well behind the pilot and he can’t see any of it he needs to learn other cues. Newer airplanes like the A-380 do have remote cameras that I am sure help a lot but it is still no picnic.

First of all, the winglets have no bearing on what a pilot can see because it is impossible to see the wing tip as it is way – way behind the pilot. In light airplanes our sense of ground speed during taxi is influenced by our experience driving a car since we are about at the same height when performing both tasks, not so in a 747. The pilot is about three stories above the taxi way and that creates the illusion that you are taxiing very slowly when in fact you may be going too fast. Further being that high makes the taxi way look like a very narrow driveway. The good news is that nobody blocks your view.

Now consider that the nose wheel is 25 feet behind the pilot and you can see that keeping the pilot on the centerline during ninety degree turns will put the wheels in the mud. Approaching a ninety degree turn you have to extend your nose well beyond the edge of the taxi way and out over the grass before you start the turn. If you have done everything correctly, your main gear which is 114 feet behind the nose of the airplane will come around the corner OK. No cutting corners in a 747.

On the straight away staying on the center line is also a must, since the main gear takes up 42 feet of the 75 foot wide taxi way there is little room to drift. In addition, you have to be alert for obstructions to the side because even though you cannot see them, all four engine are over the grass beyond the edge of the taxi way.

Doing a 180 degree turn takes a lot of room. If everything works perfectly and you turn at the maximum rate, the main gear uses up 153 feet of the runway, but the outboard wing tip carves an arc of approximately 222 feet. Lots to hit with a swing like that.

So what does this have to do with us taxiing our smaller GA airplanes and staying on the center line? First we carry most of our fuel in the wings, so hitting something with a wing can still cause serious problems. Second, it is hard to blame someone other than the pilot for a taxi accident.

So if it happens to me, I want to be able to say I was on the center line at the time of the accident.

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App Review: Notify NTSB for NTSB Part 830

NTSB Part 830 regulations cover reporting requirements for aircraft accidents and incidents. Every pilot has had to answer a few questions on a FAA written test about the various requirements and time frames. Studying these regulations can cause the same glassing over of the eyes as ADF relative bearings or calculating time to station by VOR bearing change.

In practice, everyone pretty much forgets about it until something happens.  Then the scramble begins. If you have ever had a minor incident such as scraping a wing on a hangar door or a hard landing that may have damaged something, one of the questions is “Do I have to report this and to who?”

It is very important to know exactly when to report and when not to. The rules can be confusing and the implications are serious. Many pilots are not certain of or are unfamiliar with the various requirements of Part 830. Even worse, is reporting something when you were not obligated to make the report. This can draw a lot of undue attention from the FAA.

Knowing when you are required to report and when you are not can save you a lot of unnecessary grief. You do not want to expose yourself to possible enforcement action arising from a report to the FAA that you did not have to make. Likewise, you do not want to be delinquent in making a required report.

Reading through the text of Part 830 is not much help either. It is written in typical “Govermenteese”.

Mike Lersbak is a pilot and CFI who developed an iPhone App to help pilots and other people working in aviation to determine whether an event is reportable.

I recently had the opportunity to demo Mike’s App called “Notify NTSB”. As with all things Apple, the app downloaded and installed easily.

The first page contains a step-by-step wizard. By answering a series of questions, the application walks the user through the various reporting criteria. If a report to the NTSB is required, the next set of screens gathers the required information: pilot’s name, registration, aircraft position, etc. A nice feature of the program is that it will export all the required information into an e-mail that you can send directly from an iPhone.

The program lacks real world explanations of the official definitions in Sec 830.2. Most of the text is simply copied directly from the regulation (along with some typos). For example, the NTSB definition of Serious Injury is very broad. I would like to see some specific examples or links to help the user decide if an injury “involves an internal organ”.

I think if I was involved in an aircraft accident or event, my first call would be to an attorney instead of relying on an iPhone App to decide if notification is required. That said, this App could very useful to gather and save data if a report is required. It can also be useful as a study aid for someone preparing for an FAA Knowledge Test. You could plug in different scenarios to help reinforce the reporting requirements.

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Let’s fly like the Professionals

It is no secret that the airlines, corporate and military aviation have a much better safety record than general aviation. And it is also no secret how they do that. They fly by the book, use standard procedures, do gobs of training and have flight dispatchers to provide planning and enroute support.

That’s great you say, but they also spend lots of money on all those things and I can’t afford that. I believe we GA pilots can copy what the pros do for very little additional expense and thereby significantly improve our safety record.

First item, standard procedures and fly by the book. How long has it been since you have read your POH? Are you operating your airplane exactly as recommended by the manufacturer?

What about the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM)? This is a book that contains “best practices” for operating both VFR and IFR in our system. How long has it been since you looked through this book and are you using these best practices? Based upon what I see around my airport, not many pilots are aware of the contents of the AIM. Last time I looked, the AIM only cost about $10, reading it is free. That’s not a big investment to improve our operation.

Now what about all this training the professionals do? Sure that costs a lot of money. But don’t you think the airlines and corporations feel they are getting a good return on that investment in improved safety. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t do it. Since most of us are not flying high performance jets or making category III approaches to snow covered runways, we don’t need all the intensive training the professionals do. But, the point is that an investment in training pays off.

So is one hour with your friendly CFI every 2 years enough? I don’t think so. The pros train on a regular ongoing basis and we should also. The FAA has a good program to help us do that, it is called the Wings program. The WINGS program provides guidance for us to establish an ongoing training program just like the pros have. Yes, it does require a little more expense than the old one hour required flight review, but the cost is still minimal. Recall, the professionals consider training expense a good investment.

What about the dispatcher? We already have them. There is a multitude of online flight planning programs available now with excellent weather briefing links. Then of course there is Flight Service for that personal briefing and flight watch for enroute updates. FSS has all the same stuff an airline dispatch office has; we just need to use them. Enroute, we have radar flight following to watch us most of the time; all we have to do is ask. All of this at no cost to us.

So, let’s get into those books a little more, use our free dispatch service and get started on the WINGS program. I encourage you to give this some thought. I believe if we all made some changes to the way we operate, there is no reason we can’t improve our safety record.

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Bring Back FAM Trips 2

Last time, I talked about the FAA program that allowed Controllers to ride in cockpit jumpseats for Familiarization Flights – FAM Flights.

Each airline had its own procedures and customs for access to the jump seat.  Generally, all one had to do was present yourself in dispatch with an FAA ID and a form signed by your supervisor. Compliance with the airline’s grooming and dress code was mandatory.  We would always get a laugh out of seeing someone who normally favored t-shirt, jeans and flip-flops show up for work in a brand new suit accompanied by a brand new haircut.  This person would be greeted with “Going for a FAM trip, huh?”

The reception by the flight crew could also be interesting.  Their first reaction would often be “Oh crap, a Fed is riding with us today.”  After patiently explaining that we were from Air Traffic and not Flight Standards (FSDO) doing a line check, the Captain would relax and invite the Controller into the cockpit.

The best trips were when you were actively engaged as part of the crew.  A good crew would start with a safety briefing, explaining the oxygen mask, radio controls, etc. It made you feel part of the crew.  “If you see something you do not like, speak up” was a frequent comment.  (Of course, I would not question a B747 Captain’s choice of flap settings.)  I tried to help as much as possible with an extra set of eyes looking for traffic.

I learned a lot about how a professional flight crew operates under often-stressful conditions. When I retired from the FAA and started flying as Captain of my own two person crew, I tried to recall lessons and build on experience learned from those senior Captains.

Veteran jump seat riders picked their trips by the type of equipment flown.  There is a surprising difference between different airliner cockpits.  The worst was the ubiquitous B727; especially in the aft or 2nd jump seat.  The forward jump seat was about 6” behind the Captain’s seat.  You prayed for a short Captain.  If he or she had to put their seat all the way back, you were riding sideways for 3 or 4 hours.

Then there was the DC9/MD80s.  This was not too bad for room but the seat back rest was also the cockpit door.  Every time the cockpit door opened, you had to lean forward and duck the coffee cups, meal trays, etc. that were passed back and forth over your head. Moreover, being the only door, it was also the cockpit exit.  That meant you had to take off the headset, unbuckle, get up and fold the little seat every time a crewmember needed a personal break.

The best jump seat by far was the L1011.  There was a great big window next to a full size seat.  I had the great fortune to ride one of these from LAX to Honolulu.

I have also traveled throughout the Caribbean and if you were lucky could even get a trip to Europe.  The military participated in a slightly different program but similar.  I was able to ride in the cockpit of a C5A Galaxy through a night aerial refueling with two KC135s in formation.

Of course, for some Controllers it just turned into free transportation; although not without hassles.  Being bumped was always a threat and priority for jumpseats was assigned differently by different airlines.  But it always seemed that Controllers were the lowest priority.

If you were brave, you could try to schedule a FAM trip around a family vacation.  I remember one trip to California.  The Captain knew I was traveling with my family in the back.  As we were coming up on the Grand Canyon, he asked me if I wanted to bring anyone up front.  This was, of course, pre 9/11.  My 9 year old daughter came up, took one look at the view of the canyon through the cockpit windows from FL350 and said “Wow Dad, you have a cool job”.

Fly safe.

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