Mission Accomplishment vs Safety

Mission Accomplishment versus Safety!

We are scheduled to take a flight mission early in one morning to pick-up personnel about 200 miles from Puerto Princesa City. The personnel to be transported neeeded to be in Puerto to attend an important activity, and that was one of our mission, to bring them here on that day. As early as 6:30 am, everything was ready and set for takeoff except for one vital element, WEATHER condition. As I opened few weather websites, i could easily infer from the pictures that the weather along our route of flight is not favorable. True enough, as i opened the PAGASA website, there was LOW Pressure Area at 90km West Northwest of Coron, Palawan. That’s just few kilometers from our destination, El NIdo. Also, a weatherman from friendly units informed us thru text message that El NIdo is currently experiencing heavy rains with thick cloud build-up at West of El NIdo Airport. Although the weather in Puerto Princesa was improving, we waited for a while before we postponed the mission, just in case the weather changes. And so, we get weather updates every 30 minutes. After an hour, the sun started to show-up at Puerto Princesa, but still El Nido continued to experience rains. After three hours of waiting and confirming an unimproving weather condition at our point of destination, we finally called it a day. Flight is posponed the next day.

We fly a BNI Islander aircraft. A 10 seater capacity plane. It is an airfoil not big enough to endure adverse weather conditions. Although strictly, we, the pilots and crew, can undertake said mission, SAFETY was always our main business. Thus, we we aborted said task.

It has long been indoctrinated on us that “safety is paramount at all times.” We should always bear in mind that the first mission to be fulfilled should at all times be, “to bring the plane and the lives within to SAFETY.”

Posted under Aviation by brix on Monday 21 July 2008 at 5:18 am

Crabbing VS One Wing Low Landing method

Crabbing Landing Method versus One wing Low Landing Method.

Early in the course of my flying career, I had encountered landing conditions with gusty winds, sometimes even reaching beyond the limits of the aircraft. Mostly, I used the crabbing method(facing the wind or facing off-centerline landing) because i find it more comfortable and easy. However, when i came back at our headquarters from a deployment and had undergone the Standard Evaluation, my checker told me to refrain from using crabbing method and instead apply one wing low method. I wondered in a while because nobody had cautioned me before with that. But anyway, I just complied with what he said. The next series of touch and go were then all one wing low landings. I banked the yoke towards the wind(on my port) and compensate it with rudder(right rudder), that’s how it works. To cut it short, although I’m not yet very confident bout one wing low landing on strong winds, I have had several landings using such method. The last was just a week ago when I landed the BN Islander with a wind of 22 knots gusting 28.

During this landing, the  wind was really strong. I could feel the aircraft being drifted quickly. I made my first approach with one wing low and at about 400ft above ground level (AGL) on finals, I decided to make a low pass, more especially when i saw flocks of birds on the runway. Upon reaching about 20 feet, the gust was so unpredictable, so I had my power to full and made my second approach. I still used the one wing low method because that’s the last advised i got. At 500ft on finals, the wind was strong enough that it made aircraft face the wind even with a yoke banked about 15 degrees to the port. Yes, i could still track my centerline with one wing low but the problem is every time wind gusts slammed my port aerofoil, the aircraft swiftly banked on my left giving me hard time making a stable track of the threshold and centerline. I continued my approach and landed the aircraft. After landing, i realized how difficult the approach was so I asked my Safety Pilot about my approach. He said that it would be much easier if I used the crabbing method. I was amazed to hear it from him. And so I dug more follow-up questions. And then he explained that crabbing method will help me ease the burden of continually compensating the tendency of the aircraft to always face the wind. It also preempts a possible sudden bank on the wind side (exposing my wings) and keeping a better margin for safety. Conversely, Crabbing method or approaching facing the wind with yoke on wind direction and rudder on the opposite was the right approach especially during high winds. It creates a bigger margin of a safe landing than using one wing low method.

So, next time I fly, I will use one wing low method :-), just kiddin! I will use it only on low wind conditions. Yes, i will apply crabbing method landing the next time wind conditions doesn’t favor a normal landing approach. Crabbing Method on high winds with gusts!

Posted under Aviation by brix on Thursday 3 July 2008 at 5:41 am

Cebu Pacific vs AirPhilippines

I’ll be flying home from Palawan to Manila by the end of this month. Its already been a year since I last took a commercial flight. The last was from Air Philippines which, as I had always expected,  was delayed for few hours. I have had pretty disappointing experiences with AirPhilippines and PAL before when i used to travel locally with these commercial airlines. I can only count in my fingers the times when I flew on time with PAL/Air Phil. In contrast, Cebu Pacific was always on the dot. They only failed me once on my schedule. They were always on time. In fact, I was almost even left behind a flight from Davao to Manila because I was 10 minutes late from departure time. By the way, it was so embarrassing because all eyes were on me as I entered the aircraft, hehehe). Well, who would have thought that all pax were onboard even 15 minutes before the ETD? Anyway, my point is Cebu Pac is I believe very particular with time. Actually, if I’m not mistaken, they once had a commercial ad with “lolo”(old man with walking cane) which implied delayed flights of other airlines.

When I was in Cagayan De Oro, I bought an Air Phil ticket and asked the teller, who happens to be my friend, “why are AirPhil/PAL known for delayed flights.” She smiled and said “Yes, that’s how we care for our passengers?” I said, “HA?” Haluur?” She then explained that the main reason PAL/AirPhil delay its flight is because they always make sure that the aircraft is always in good condition. If pilots, crew and technicians noticed any minute deficiency, they will not fly the aircraft until it is fixed. That’s how they trade time with safety. I sighed for a moment and immediately paid my ticket. Was it true? or was it just a classic example of  loyalty to company? Does she mean Cebu Pac is less secure because they are on time?  What do you think?

Cebu Pacific versus Air Philippines? To whom will you fly?

Posted under Aviation,Travel by brix on Saturday 21 June 2008 at 9:35 am

High Approach vs Low Approach Landing

High Approach versus Low Approach Landing? Which is safer? which of the 2 will I use?

When I first flew an airplane, I did not mind whether my approach in landing would be High or Low. All I was aiming was to land the aircraft graciously so I could impress my Instructor Pilot (IP). Although these two approaches were taught to me in theory during my ground phase, I did not fully appreciate the difference between such methods because back on my mind, my First Pilot or Pilot-in-Command(or PIC) will always be there to correct my approach.

After about 150 hrs as co-pilot in Cessna 152 and Britten Norman Islander or BNI for short, I was recommended for another training, this time as First Pilot of BNI, the same training my PICs underwent and which will soon put me to helm of deciding what to choose or what to teach my co-pilot, High or Low approach. After my evaluation, my training started.

Early in the course of my schooling, my IP asked me what to do in case you have a short runway, “High or Low Approach?” I said “high approach.” After elaborating and explaining why I choose high approach, my IP said, ‘”NO, you’re wrong!” He pointed out two major reasons. First, you will utilize more runway during landing and second, its too risky. He said that if you approach high, your break-off glide will be higher than normal to safely arrest your rate of descent. As a result, you will consume much runway before you totally level off and eventually land. He further explained that high approach would require low power settings for you to maintain the required approach speed. When you have low power settings, especially at low altitudes, you are at risk to wind such as gusts and/or shear. And if you have wind shear or gusts during your landing, this could probably drop your altitude quickly. If this happens during your break off or level off, your aircraft will surely strike the runway. You’d be lucky if you’ll only have broken landing gears. He pointed out further that in low approach, you have a low angle of attack thus requiring you higher power settings. With this, you can break your glide at a lower altitude providing you lesser level-off-run before touchdown, and upon touchdown, you chop your power. The setting from high to point blank(idle) power will result to an eventual decrease in your airspeed. In short, the sudden loss of power is the main factor to stop your aircraft during low approach.

My IPs explanation was logical enough to many, i guess (especially most pilots in our school believe in that thought). However, I do not agree with them 100%. In spite the fact that I incurred only 100 flying hours as First Pilot, I still believe that High approach is better on shortfield landings. I took this idea from a bird that actually makes its landing. I often observe that a bird approaching high for landing halts almost at their touchdown point compared to a bird that approaches low, which often lead to few more steps. This in fact is same as aircraft. Try to compare the rate of decrease on your airspeed on high approach and low approach. You will notice that speed rapidly decreases on break-off during high approach rather than low approach. This is primarily because in low approach you expose less airfoil while high approach exposes much airfoil leading to greater drag(only during break-off). As a result, your airspeed bleeds faster. This is an advantage in short airfield landing. Since, your aim is to put the aircraft into halt immediately, and you can only do that if you decrease you airspeed, it is but valid to approach high on shortfields since this drops your speed much faster than in low approach. In logic, you will take advantage of your airfoil by using it as your brake. This will give you shorter landing rolls than low approach.

Nonetheless, I will never discredit my IP in his second reason, SAFETY. Even if I explained my side, I always remind myself not to do such approach when wind is high. Such maneuver is only good during calm conditions, unless of course your experienced enough to safely arrest abrupt drops during gusty winds. Again, always bear in mind, “SAFETY IS PARAMOUNT AT ALL TIMES.”

Posted under Aviation by brix on Tuesday 17 June 2008 at 12:27 pm