From the Flight Deck - May roy evans ii
Roy Evans II

“What kind of man would live where there is no danger? I don't believe in taking foolish chances. But nothing can be accomplished by not taking a chance at all.” This was said while Charles Lindbergh was discussing his plans to cross the Atlantic, I was thinking about his quote the other day holding short of 25R in PHX. On this particular day, PHX was experiencing some gusty winds, walls of dust, and the occasionally-reported rain shower that made for an exciting day flying around the valley of the sun. But it wasn’t my flight that had me thinking about Lindbergh... it was a single-engine Cessna enjoying what appeared to be two handfuls of a crosswind approach and landing.

Throughout the history of aviation, we’ve made great strides to mitigate these foolish chances by giving pilots better resources to avoid an undesirable state. We first started out assuming that the person in charge knew everything, and challenging their authority was an easy way to find yourself unemployed. Once we realized all Captains are not created the same, we created Crew Resource Management that opened the doors to a more collaborative cockpit, emphasizing all the available resources available to us. Usually, this is where pilots will sarcastically sing “Kumbaya” and whine until the free lunch is served.

Nowadays, most general aviation pilots have a plethora of resources available to them. Sometimes, I mean most times, they’re better equipped flying their Rotax-powered LSA’s than I am flying the CRJ. Yet with all these resources available to pilots, we’re still taking ‘foolish chances’ that are unnecessary. With all this emphasis on resources, pilots are reaching a point of information overload. We literally have iPads, smart phones, and panel-mounted GPS’ telling us all kinds of valuable information, yet we still get lost, hit mountains, and land at the wrong airport.

This is where the aviation community has come to address these issues and more with our favorite solution...a new acronym. TEM, or Threat and Error Management, is what airlines are teaching their pilots today in addition to enhanced CRM training. TEM focuses on identifying threats, such as weather, aircraft performance, and fatigue, and developing mitigation strategies to circumvent them. TEM also focuses on identifying errors, such as incorrect frequencies, autopilot modes, or forgotten procedures, and managing them before they lead the pilot into an undesirable aircraft state (UAS).

At work, we’re trained to identify the largest threats for every part of our flight, and verbalize them to our crew. Once identified, we work together using CRM to develop a mitigation plan to prevent these threats from developing into potential errors or UAS’. If we can’t come to an agreement on how to best avoid these threats, we don’t go. In the case of my flight, we had 35 knot steady-state winds gusting to 45 knots at both PHX and TUS (our destination), no more than 25 degrees off of runway heading. No thunderstorms were forecast or observed, and visibilities in the dust were greater than 3 miles. Having dealt with the haboobs of the valley, this was nothing new to me or my First Officer, and with adequate fuel to return back to PHX (or head somewhere much nicer and sunnier, say, SBA), we elected to go. To cope with the conditions, we added a few knots to our landing reference speed, activated the continuous ignition, and took off with all available thrust (as opposed to reduced thrust).

As for our friend in the Cessna, I’m sure this was no training flight, or a casual joy ride around the valley, as these weather conditions spread through most of that day. Regardless of the reason why they were flying, it appeared as though they had made a plan to mitigate the threat of the winds and dust storms, and followed through with it, ending with the control lock in and the tie downs secured to the ramp...or they were very lucky. Either way, we both have good stories about how bad it really was on final.

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