Sunday, April 25, 2010

Unintended Consequences

Lockheed L-1049H Super Constellation N6937C 
photographer Paul Bowen

How can something as simple as shutting the navigation lights off in the daylight hours create tension in the cockpit? Well, here is the story.

Early in my career, I noticed all the pilots I flew with would keep the navigation lights turned on even during the daylight hours.  When I researched the subject by reading the company's  Flight Operations Manual and the Federal Air Regulations (FAR) I saw no requirement to keep them turned on except for night time operations. I decided to turn them off during my flights during day time flights. Only occasionally would a co-pilot or  flight engineer suggest they be turned on.  When I explained it was not a requirement, the discussion almost always ended at that point.

For many years I would maintain this way of setting up my cockpit. If the co-pilot or flight engineer would turn them on, I just reached up and shut them off without a big discussion taking place.

Then one day,  I began to rethink my action concerning the navigation lights.  It became clear to me I was the only pilot in the company flying in the daytime with the lights off. I started a discussion with the new to me co-pilot on the subject and he confirmed I was the only one turning them off. When I asked him if it caused him any concerns,  he said "Yes." He went on to explain it caused him to be suspicious of just about all aspects of my piloting abilities until he had enough experience with me to set aside his suspicions.

Apparently, the simple act of doing something different from what all the other pilots were doing can cause serious concerns within the crew. This was especially true when flying for the first time with new crew members.

When I discovered this unintended consequence of my turning off the navigation lights during day time flights, I decided to stop doing it and left them turned on for the rest of my career.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Deliberate Use of Inaccurate, Incorrect Words in Aviation. Why?

Concorde Tail wheel
I have been following closely the release of information concerning the crash of the TU-154M in Russia this past week. The reason I am following it is the fact it is one of the first crashes involving an aircraft equipped with a Terrain Awareness and Warning System (TAWS) and is involved in a Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT) crash.

More on this accident in a future post after accurate information is available.

When I went to the Wikipedia entry for the accident and discovered it included the term "black box" when discussing the recovery of both the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR). I have for many years objected to the deliberate use of incorrect words. As I am a registered user of Wikipedia, I have the ability to edit the entries.

I simply changed the word "black" to "orange" and waited to see what would happen. I did not have to wait long, maybe 5 minutes, until another Wiki user changed the color from orange back to black. Why would someone do this? There has to be something close to insanity involved to justify the change calling a Flight Data Recorder or the Cockpit Voice Recorder that is colored orange to a "black box".

This brings to mind an old friend of mine who owned a boat he christened "The Plane" and the at the same point in time owned a Cessna 140 he named "The Boat". He said he did it to deliberately "mess with" his family and friends minds.

Early in my career, I recognized many pilots when discussing an Instrument Landing Systems components incorrectly using the term "Outer Marker" instead of the correct term "Outer Compass Locater". I would attempt to correct this error by claiming that I had memorized the frequency of every Outer Marker in the USA. The correct frequency is 75 mHz for all of them. The Outer Compass Locater operates in the low/medium frequency spectrum and each one has a different frequency. The outer marker and the outer compass locater are two different radio facilities that are sometimes co-located at the same geographic point.

Hughes H-1 tail skid

The use of the term "tail dragger" is incorrectly and inaccurately used to describe an airplane equipped with a tail wheel. It does describe an airplane with a tail skid however. Did you know the Concorde was equipped with a tail wheel? Did you know the Hughes H-1 was equipped with a tail skid? What is the proper term for the Concorde? Is it a tail wheeler or a tail dragger?

Another term that does not accurately describe reality is the much heard and read "glass cockpit". Originally coined to recognize the large cockpit multi-function displays which consisted of cathode ray tubes (CRT) which were of glass construction. The cathode ray tube displays were replaced by the much lighter in weight liquid crystal displays (LCD) which did not generate as much heat and were much more reliable. The LCD multifunction displays are constructed of layers of plastic.

Coupled with the use of the inaccurate term of "glass cockpit" is the term "steam gauges". Why the use of these words has reached such high level of popularity is a mystery to me. Pilots for the most part pride themselves by flying and following procedures accurately. Why don't they use words accurately as well?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Professional Pilots RUmor NEtwork (PPRuNe)

                                                         Ash Clouds Threaten Air Traffic

The major news of today is the disruption of air traffic in Europe.
Like most of you, I wanted to find a site that would keep me informed about the status of the volcanic ash cloud in Europe. I started out at the Google News site and while there was a lot of information about the cloud, it was very general in nature and sometimes conflicting in nature.

After a couple hours of surfing, I ended up on the Professional Pilots Rumor Network (PPRuNE) forum at:
It lists the number of currently active users at 2,734.

This was not my first visit but the large number of pilots on this forum make it a great place to find the hottest items.  Here I found more than a than 1,300 posts on the ash cloud with the first post showing a great image of the event taken on April 14 the first day of the eruption.

The Rumor-News forum is just one of more than 50 forums that cover almost every aspect of aviation available on the PPRuNe site.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Impending Loss of WAAS Intelsat Galaxy 15 Satellite

WAAS IntelSat Galaxy 15 Satellite
Orbital Sciences photo 

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced on Thursday, April 15, 2010 they have lost control of the Satellite that carries the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) package. It loss will occur some time within the next two weeks to a month. The impact of this loss will be a degradation in the accuracy of the Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) signals in the north western portion of the United States WAAS coverage, especially in Alaska.

The WAAS system normally requires three geostationary satellites to provide coverage throughout Canada, Alaska, USA and Mexico.

The resolution to this situation is a replacement of the satellite will be required. The time frame to make this happen could be as long as 16 months. During the time in which there is just one satellite, GPS users in North America may experience loss of WAAS accuracies for periods of up to five minutes each occurring as many as five times in the year.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

No Cost for On Line Access to all 18 ICAO Annexes

I recently required access to the International Civil Aviation Organization's Annexes which contain the rules and procedures that apply to flight in International airspace. My first attempt was to Google my way to the ICAO home page. Here I found a link to the price list for a hard copy of each of the Annexes that varied from a low of $11 to high of $24 each.

Found along with the Annexes were the 15 ICAO Documents including Document 4444 as well as Document 7030, Document 8168 and Document 4132 Manual of Radiotelephony.

Not wanting to pay a total of up to $500 by purchasing them I did another Google search to see if they were available on a web site. After much Googling, I was successful! You can view them and download and print them at no cost other than your paper and ink cartridge costs.

The site is a Danish website at:

Please help me pass this source out to the pilot group.
If this information assisted you in any way, please feel free to use the Blog's comment ability to let me know it helped you.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Welcome to The Iconoclastic Aviators Blog!

Welcome to the newest aviation blog on the internet. We have tried to make our posts of interest to pilots of various experience levels. The main purpose of the Blog is to encourage thoughtful pilots an opportunity to express them here. The subjects have been selected to inspire discussions both pro and con.

If you feel the time you spent here is of value to you, please let other pilots know about it. The more participants we have, the better!

I had an initial list of approximately 100 e-mail addresses and have sent an e-mail invitation to each of them. I just sent the last e-mail an hour ago. (Thursday, April 8, 2010)

Here is a list as of today (April 8, 2010) of all 43 posts currently on the Blog.
I would suggest taking a look at this list and choosing which posts you want to view from the Blog Archive just to the left side of this note first.

Welcome to The Iconoclastic Aviators Blog!
Northeast International Operations Seminar
▼ March (7)
"New York Approach, Falcon 900, I am canceling my ...
Displaced Thresholds and Landing - Part II
My opinion about displaced thresholds and landing
Google Analytics is working on the Blog
Installed Google Analytics
Part 6 WGS-84 Versus PE-90.02 update
New Mandatory National Transportation Safety Board...

▼ February (9)
Colgan Air Pilots poorly treated by NTSB summary s...
Part 5 Integrity and Current World GPS status
Part 4 WGS-84 What is it? Current World GPS Stat...
Part 3 WGS-84 What is it? Current world GPS status...
Part 2 WGS-84 What is it? Current world GPS status...
Part 1 WGS-84 What is it? Current world GPS status...
Thoughts On Landing Touchdown Targets and Touchdow...
Unconventional Thoughts on Aircraft Maximum Gross ...
What is the technically correct response to this t...

▼ January (25)
A critical look at use of reduced thrust takeoffs....
Weather deviations while in radar contact with Air...
Automated oceanic position reports via Automatic D...
This post is for you Lou...Use of a satellite tele...
Randomness is good!
Global Positioning System (GPS) Calculated Altitud...
Use your Pilot in Command authority
Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast ground ...
China launches third Beidou GPS navigation Satelli...
European Union announces increase in size of Galil...
Visual Flight Rules operations while in Airspace A...
Air Traffic Control expected climb and descent rat...
The Antonov 225 has a new paint job!
Resolved! Use of flight simulators to maintain in...
Use of desktop simulators to maintain instrument p...
GPS Satellite constellation to be increased from 2...
The best substitute for brains is fuel.
Icing and dangers of attempting to get on top by D...
In the United States, airports have no runways num...
There are more Californians than there are Canadia...
Today in the USA, there are only two basic kinds o...
There is no Airspace A over Hawaii.
The Boeing 787 does not use Pratt & Whitney engine...
The Boeing 787 does not have winglets.
When pilots fly the A-380 into the United States a...

Both Don and I appreciate your suggestions for specific posts. Don't hesitate to let us know.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Northeast International Operations Seminar

Coming to Morristown - Tuesday, April 13, 2010

For those unable to attend the National Business Aviation Association's (NBAA) 37th Annual International Operators Conference, the Westchester Aviation Association (WAA), the Teterboro Users Group (TUG) and the Morristown Aviation Association (MAA) will offer a day-long International Operations Seminar for pilots, scheduler/dispatchers, aircraft technicians and flight attendants.

The event will be held at the Westin Governor Morris Hotel in Morristown, NJ, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and will feature Dr. Mark Rosekind, nominee for the National Transportation Safety Board. RSVP forms are available at local associations and must be returned by March 24 to For more information, contact NBAA's Dean Saucier at

The presentations will include flying in Russia and a World Geodetic Standard 1984 (WGS-84) versus Parameters of the Earth (PE-90.02) comparison.