Blind faith in technology

Technology is a great thing.  You’re flying along with not a care in the world.

Then your Electronic Flight Bag fails, leaving you without a clue as to where you are.

Do you, as a pilot, have a backup?

A Civil Aviation Safety Engineer estimated earlier this year that 90% of Visual Flight Rules pilots failed to have a backup.  A backup being maps/charts/lists of radio frequencies.  The requirements to carry a set of accessible set of maps etc. before the flight commences, is outlined in CASA Regulation 233(1)(h)

233  Responsibility of pilot in command before flight
(1)  The pilot in command of an aircraft must not commence a flight if he or she has not received evidence, and taken such action as is necessary to ensure, that:

(h)  the latest editions of the aeronautical maps, charts and other aeronautical information and instructions, published in AIP or by a person approved in writing, that are applicable:
(i)  to the route to be flown; and
(ii)  to any alternative route that may be flown on that flight;
are carried in the aircraft and are readily accessible to the flight crew.

Yes, the Pilot In Command could argue that their EFB worked before taking off, but wouldn’t it be better to have a “Plan B”?

And know how to use it.

Flight Safety Australia – Blind Faith
Electronic Flight Bag – Friend or Foe

They are already suffering a greater punishment than any of us could administer with judgement.

rbftag.jpgIt’s the distractions which harm or kill us.  Consider the following:

The link between all these, is the distractions which occurred.

A study published in June 2002 titled “The Stressed Hippocampus, Synaptic Plasticity and Lost Memories” concludes in part

“Stress, a naturalistic factor that contributes to memory impairments, constitutes a significant problem in today’s increasingly populous and long-living society.”

Or to put it another way:

‘The important factors that keep showing up involve a combination of stress, emotion, lack of sleep and change in routine, where the basal ganglia is trying to do what it’s supposed to do, and the conscious mind is too weakened to resist. What happens is that the memory circuits in a vulnerable hippocampus literally get overwritten, like with a computer program. Unless the memory circuit is rebooted—such as if the child cries, or, you know, if the wife mentions the child in the back—it can entirely disappear.’
– Professor David Diamond in a March 2009 Washington Post article

What lessons can be learnt?

  1. Remember that making a mistaking or error can happen to anyone, including you.
  2. Tiredness is your enemy.  If you are tired, you are more likely to make a mistake.
  3. Be aware of distractions.  Eliminate distractions as much as possible.
  4. Use memory aides, or checklists, as needed.
    (I’m a great believer in “Remove Before Flight” streamers.


The blog post title was borrowed from a post at On The Floor @Dove.

… you do not have the outcome of death to motivate your reactions.

From Issue 77, Nov-Dec 2010, Flight Safety Australia magazine; in an article discussing the use of Flight Simulators

Other instructors say the pause button on a simulator can be overused. Chief Flying instructor of Coffs Harbour-based Professional Pilot Training, Robert Loretan, remembers an experience early in his career that taught him a hard lesson about how to use simulators appropriately.

The incident happened when he was an exchange instructor in the US Air Force on the Northrop T-38 Talon supersonic trainer.

‘I taught a girl on a T-38s in an all-singing, all-dancing, six-axis, terrain-modelling, full mission simulator. The T-38 at 160 knots on Finals with a simulated engine failure was behind the drag curve, and too slow to go around, or even maintain a three degree approach path. To imprint this danger into her perception I put the simulator on Finals too slow and too low and we could not maintain the approach path in afterburner, so we crashed short of the runway. We did this three times.’

‘The images were very real and I was scared by the experience. I became determined not to let my jet get into that situation. However, she was relaxed and just hit the reset button to put us back on to Finals as though nothing had happened.’

‘She went flying with another instructor a day later – they got in the same situation, she delayed her reaction because she did not understand the outcome, and they hit the approach lighting just short of the runway. Fortunately they got the ’burner in on the second engine just as they hit, and they got enough vertical trajectory to eject safely as the aeroplane broke up.’

‘I blame myself a bit – I let her crash in the simulator and taught her the wrong thing when I thought I was doing the right thing. The problem of practising dangerous activities in a simulator is that you do not have the outcome of death to motivate your reactions: if you let ‘You explain how you’re flying the aeroplane by attitude and set it up for them – their eyes aren’t even outside – they’re flying by artificial horizon, because that’s what you do on flight sim. You can pick it straight away. ‘it get to the point of crashing you can cause a negative transfer into the perception of the pilot.’

However, Loretan says the safest place to practise dangerous activities is in a simulator.   ‘As an experienced pilot, I transferred the aeroplane skills to the simulator to build my situational awareness for operations in the aeroplane. She took the same experience in the simulator to the aeroplane and damaged her situational awareness.’

Australian Civil Aviation Alcohol and Other Drugs–12 months on.

A year ago, the Australia Civil Aviation Safety Authority introduced new regulations dealing with Alcohol and Other Drugs in Aviation.  In Issue 76 of the Flight Safety Australia magazine (Sept-Oct 2010), they had these handy facts.


  1. 0.02 is effectively zero. *
  2. Each standard drink you consume takes one hour to clear your system.
        One drink = one hour;
        Two drinks = two hours;
        Three drinks = three hours, and so on.
        It all adds up.
  3. The effects of alcohol can last up to 48-hours.
  4. So, you can be under 0.02, and still be disoriented and dehydrated.
  5. Over-the-counter does not necessarily mean safe. #
  6. Beware of codeine.
  7. You can be tested anytime, anywhere (where safety-sensitive aviation activities take place).
  8. Drugs tested for are: cannabis, cocaine, meth/amphetamine and opiates.
  9. ‘Rebound fatigue, following lengthy periods of meth/amphetamine use, presents a considerable risk to safety.
  10. has all this information and more.

*  Several of the people Flight Safety spoke to queried the 0.02 blood alcohol figure. The AOD program uses this figure because it gives scientific certainty that the person has actually consumed alcohol. This is distinct from what can happen in some people, where their bodies can produce small amounts of alcohol naturally. The 0.02 figure therefore effectively means
zero consumption of alcohol. The eight hour bottle-to-throttle rule still remains – it’s just that there is now a scientific way of con?rming that the person has consumed alcohol.

# A range of over-the-counter or prescription drugs may result in a positive sample. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or pharmacist before using any medications or therapeutic substances. They can recommend alternative options.

Some of the over-the-counter or prescription drugs which may result in a positive sample are:

Positive for opiates:
preparations containing codeine (e.g. Panadeine, Codis, Codral Cold and Flu, Nurofen Plus), and preparations containing morphine (e.g. MS Contin).

Positive for amphetamine-type stimulants:
preparations containing dexamphetamine.

some preparations used during ear/nose/throat surgery may contain cocaine.