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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Aviation and the Sea

Just submitted my 
5-star review of 

Captain Jim Wright

The book has the same effect as converting the cockpit door from bullet proof to glass for all to see what goes on in there. Your usage of anonymous questionnaire responses was brilliant. My guess (read “hope”) is that Alaska Air is still one of the few companies where pilots answered your questionnaire in the positive about their companies encouraging hand flying.

Image result for alaska airlines photos

The subject reminded me of a recent conversation with a long-time AK Air captain and boating friend while we were both getting repairs done in the Port Townsend shipyard. In the course of discussing automation, he recalled a flight into Aniak some years ago when the airport still had a gravel runway. He had a jump-seater captain from another airline who was going to Aniak to meet a friend for fishing. They were flying the 737-200 with the gravel kit (affectionately known by Alaskans as a “mudhen”). 

As was the case in Dutch Harbor, the “mudhen” landings created a cloud of dust that pretty much covered the aircraft. After stopping on the numbers at the end of the runway, the jumpseater jumped out of his seat and said, “can I help with the evacuation”. My friend assured him this was a “normal” landing and there was no need to evacuate - they were simply going to taxi back to the terminal.

Image result for gravel kit landing photo

Your book gives me the impression that aviation is definitely ahead of the maritime industry in automation. On the other hand, there is an important difference between aircraft and ships during those parts of a trip (voyage) characterized as departure and arrival. You could say that a harbor pilot has a function similar to the “pilot flying” during take-off/climb out and descent /landing with the notable difference that the pilot joins and leaves the ship at the pilot station. This “notable difference” typically puts the harbor pilot in navigational control of vessels with entirely different equipment configurations and handling characteristics multiple times each day. 

Thinking about this situation while reading your book created one of those definitive “aha moments”. Of course harbor pilots are less likely to become automation dependent because they’re never shipmates with similar automation long enough to become dependent. Harbor pilots use their traditional skills learned over their time at sea as their primary source of control while using automation as a cross check. To complete the analogy, the ship’s “bridge team” functions as the “non-flying pilot” feeding automated information to the harbor pilot as may be required. 

Image result for harbor pilot photos

In the “old (pre-automation) days”, harbor pilots had to reckon speed with a stop-watch and the variable range ring on the radar. Final approach speed was judged by heartrate increase and the occasional “dry mouth”. Now with automated speed inputs, the pilot simply asks the mate (non-flying pilot) for a speed readout which does wonders for heartrate stability. 

 So, what’s the point of this narrative, 
you might ask? 

Perhaps the answer lies with the famously stated Mark Twain quote about his job as a harbor pilot:

If I have seemed to love my subject, it is no surprising thing, for I loved the profession far better than any I have followed since, and I took a measureless pride in it. The reason is plain: a pilot, in those days, was the only unfettered and entirely independent human being that lived in the earth.”

So, at the end of the day, maybe loss of independence is the prima facie cause of automation dependence. Or maybe not – what do you think?

Available On Kindle!
Normalization of Deviance
Order the paperback version 
on this site today!

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 

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