Tag Archives: Pilots

Not paying your pilots can be deadly

“Human Factors” statistically has contributed to more than 70% of all commercial aviation hull loss accidents. Initially human factors were considered strictly a flight operations issue, which is now classified as “Pilot Error”, but now include the aircraft maintenance, air traffic control operations and few other areas. You can read more about Human Factors on the wiki.

Airlines based in India

In simpler words, more accidents have happened, where the technology was not at fault, and it was a human error, where incorrect decisions were made. FAA implemented the Crew Resource management (CRM) and Maintenance Resource Management (MRM) programs to counteract human errors. There are many external sources that can and do affect a pilot’s judgment skills and abilities. Many have been identified by the FAA and have been incorporated in the training of the pilots.

Illness, Medications, Stress, Alcohol, Fatigue, Emotions (IM SAFE checklist) are some of the culprits interfering with a good Aeronautical Decision Making process (ADM). I’d like to talk more about Stress here. Many things can cause stress; NOT GETTING PAID at your JOB definitely is STRESSFULL. This is the current situation with many airlines in India, including the state owned Air India!! Many pilots have not received a pay check in months!

Can we look at this simply as a labor code violation, or do you think this can be an accident waiting to happen? Flying an airliner thinking about how you are going to provide for your family? Would you like to be a passenger in one of these airlines, where the pilots have not received their paychecks in months? Probably not. How would you like these airlines to operate in our airspace?

What’s even more disturbing is FAA’s category 1 aviation safety rating for these airlines. FAA does not consider “not paying your pilots” as a threat to safety.

Since 1992 FAA implements a program called International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) and grades countries based on aviation safety rating, and India happens to have category 1 rating, which allows their airlines to fly in and out of our airspace freely. Obviously IASA’s category 1 rating, meaning, India’s oversight of it’s airlines (including the one owned by itself) meets the ICAO standards, and not paying it’s pilots in months is not a safety oversight!!

Flight Training for Free? How?

Learn to be a pilot for free, no student loan required

Flight Training for Free

The other day I wrote a post about how you can pay for your flight training in case you are not able to obtain student loans. Getting a student loan for professional pilot training used to be much easier until about a few years ago. Well, they were never easy, but still they were much easier and much more abundant than what they are today. Most aspiring pilots were able to qualify, either on their own, and some others with co-signors etc. Now, it’s hard to even get a secured real estate loan to buy a house, so there aren’t many who qualify for an unsecured student loan for flight training.

Flight Training for FREE

FREE Flight Training?

But surely that doesn’t mean that one can not achieve the dream of becoming a pilot in the absence of a student loan or a federal aid or scholarship. I know a lot of people who have become pilots, many are even captains now with airlines around the world, and they never had a student loan, federal aid, scholarship, or even a rich parent paying on their behalf. So how did these aviators do it? Well, I’d say they found a way to complete the flight training for FREE!

Free? What’s Free? Nothing in life is ever free. Always there’s a catch. And in this case Free means – you come in with nothing out of your pocket, no student loan, federal aid or scholarship, or cash, just bring in yourself, get your training from Private to Commercial pilot, and pay with your work. There are jobs around which allow you to make lots of money, and if you can live frugally during this time, you can easily save up enough to pay for the entire training and become a Commercial Pilot within one years time.

There is nothing wrong about working hard to pay for your flight training; provided you want to become and airline pilot bad enough. I said airline pilot as that’s what most pilots want to be, even though there are many other professional pilot careers.

10 ways to build Flight Time for Airline Pilot Job

So now that you got yourself a Commercial Pilot Certificate or CPL as it is known outside of the United States, how do you go about building that flight time or flight experience to make it to that first airline pilot job interview? Airline hiring has traditionally been a roller-coaster ride. There are times when even the pilots with a few weeks old commercial certificate get hired immediately by a Regional Airline, and then there are times like right now that it is almost impossible to even find an airline employer that is even accepting job applications. This has been the way of an airline pilot job prospective ever since the dawn of commercial aviation, and probably will `always be the same.

What do we do in the meanwhile, until that first airline job? We “build time” or flight experience, and keep doing it until we achieve our goal. Here are a few popular ways that airline pilots have traditionally used to gain that well needed flight time before they got hired:

  1. Flight Instructor: Becoming a flight instructor has been one of the top choices for time building since a long time now. And if you ask me, it is one of the best ways, as you not only build that pilot time, but you gain valuable real life aviation experience. The more you teach, the more you learn. And any employer, including the airlines value the flight experience gained as a flight instructor.
  2. Banner Tow Pilots: If you live in or close to a metropolitan like San Francisco, you can find yourself a job (mostly part time) as a banner tow pilot. These jobs are mostly seasonal and on call type, and the pay rate can vary on either side of the peak. However, it is a great experience, and lots of fun. You won’t get rich at this job, but if you end up with the right company, you can expect pretty consistent flight time.
  3. Aerial Photography: Similar to the Banner Tow pilot job, but if you can market yourself the proper way (nowadays with the internet it is not as difficult as it used to be), you can pick up quiet a few clients. And who are your clients? Well, could be the photographers, marketing companies, and a lot of others as well. And if you want to go the easy way, just find a job with an existing aerial photography company in your area.
  4. Glider Tow Pilots: Gliders can be launched up in the air by various means, like winch tow, self launch, rocket propelled etc. However one of the most commonly used method is aero-launch, where a powered aircraft “pulls” the glider with a tow and takes it up to a certain altitude before the glider pilot releases the tow hitch. Busy over the weekends, and in the summers. And they always need pilots. Pay is usually not the greatest, but hey, it is always a fun weekend, and occasional glider rides as well.
  5. Skydiver Pilots: Similar to the Glider Tow pilot job. Launch skydivers up there instead of the gliders, and again busy during the weekends and holidays, and occasional chances at skydiving yourself.
  6. Traffic Watch Pilots: The companies who provide traffic watch aircraft and pilots usually are contracted by the local news and/or law enforcement agencies. These jobs are usually pretty consistent (scheduling and pay), and normally can get you a pretty consistent flow of flight time. 4-6 hours a day, 5 days a week is the average. And you can find them in just about any metro area.
  7. Safety Pilot: This is not really a job, but can always add some flight time in your logbook. Use a blog, or a pilot forum and offer your services as a safety pilot to instrument rated, or current instrument student pilots. Use simple business cards to hand out at the local aviation safety meetings, or post them over at the local FBO bulletin boards. The trick here would be to stand out from among the crowd. Offer the advantages of why you and not the other guy, and you will see occasionally opportunities coming your way. The best thing I have always liked about this way: as most pilots contacting you would be aircraft owners, you will get to experience all kinds of makes and models, big and small aircraft.
  8. Aircraft Ferry Pilots: There are companies who can hire you as a ferry pilot. I know a few myself. But, my suggestion here is: contact as many aircraft dealers as possible, and introduce yourself. These folks are usually the first ones who know about an upcoming ferry request, and usually are the ones who recommend it to the new aircraft owners. A few relationships can turn into great cross-country time for you. And you get to stay in nice motels / hotels all over the country, and if you get lucky, even internationally. I know of pilots (former students of mine) who have delivered general aviation aircraft half way across the globe!
  9. Aircraft Sales: Working as an aircraft sales person always gets you some flight time as a result of demonstration flights. And usually pays good if you can sell aircraft as well. There are a lot of pilots who have accepted these jobs as a full time career, and are happy with it.
  10. Charter Pilots: Air Ambulance, bank checks, cargo operators, courier sub-contractors, fractional ownership management, and similar part 135 operators are available all over the country. Pick the one you think you can work with, and offer your services. Negotiations and relationships can go long ways in these kinds of jobs. Really, there is no limit, and tremendous growth potential for the right candidate here.

Top 20 Career Options as a Pilot

When we think of pilots, most of us get an image of an airline pilot in our heads. Well, it is true that airline pilot career is one of the most glamorous and top choice career option for most professional pilots, but many chose to join one of the many other options available to them, and many do very well in those fields. Here are the few other career options as a pilot:

  1. Airline Pilots – fly for the airline industry worldwide, both major and regional airline carriers.
  2. Corporate Pilots – fly the high end, newer corporate airplanes for the rich and wealthy.
  3. Military Pilots – fly the state of the art, top of the line, military aircraft, and learn to fly for free (well, get paid0.
  4. Cargo Pilots – fly for the big and small cargo airlines, and cargo carriers, like FedEx, UPS etc.
  5. Air Taxi and Charter Pilots – fly for growing line of air taxi and charter operators worldwide.
  6. Ferry Pilots – fly as a ferry pilot for aircraft manufacturers like Boeing, Airbus, and then there are a lot of aircraft ferry companies available too, to go deliver the aircraft to it’s new owners.
  7. Patrol Pilots – fly for a news group to report traffic, police chases etc, or fly for aerial surveillance companies, like pipeline patrols, oil well patrols etc.
  8. Flight Instructor Pilots – a career option of choice for someone like me. Teach others how to fly, and get paid for it.
  9. EMR Pilots – fly for the air ambulance operators (big and small), helicopters and airplanes.
  10. Law Enforcement Pilots – most law enforcement agencies now have an aviation wing. And a lot of them hire pilots to fly their aircraft.
  11. Aerial Firefighter Pilots – this is mostly a contract and seasonal job, but you may want to combine this with some other job, like a full time firefighter job, or a military reserve pilot job, or a flight instructor job, then you can have the best of all the worlds.
  12. Aerial Crop-duster Pilots – similar line of work like #11 above, but you spray agricultural chemicals for the ag industry, and sometimes even for the local government bodies (pest control etc).
  13. Helicopter Pilots – a whole complete bag of choices, like, military, offshore oil industry, law enforcement, border patrol, DEA, Customs etc. Maybe even the mafia and drug lords. No, the last one was a joke!
  14. Astronauts – space travel in not limited to NASA guys only anymore. Civilian spacecraft are in the near future (well, they already are) going to be affordable to common people, and you can fly those cool high tech vehicles back and forth from earth to space all day long. Something to really think about.
  15. Test Pilots – fly for various aircraft manufacturers, both transport and general aviation, and thousands of other companies, training centers etc as a test pilot.
  16. Airshow Aerobatic Pilots – read my posts about Sean Tucker by clicking here and here (with videos), and you will get an idea. There are many like him who do this full time and part time.
  17. Aircraft Salesmen Pilots – many aircraft sales businesses, including general aviation aircraft manufacturers hire pilots to work as sales-people so they can go and demo the aircraft to prospective customers.
  18. Federal Government Pilots – probably one of the largest employer of pilots. In addition to all of the above, consider flying for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DEA, Customs, Border Patrol, Air National Guard, and many other agencies, even overseas deployment possibilities.
  19. Contract Pilots – fly for government contracting corporations like dyncorp etc, and you can pick and chose just about everything in your pilot career.
  20. Aviation Universities and College Pilots – many aviation educational institutes like Embry Riddle (ERAU), Daniel Websters etc hire pilots and flight instructors to teach in their aviation degree programs.

I wanted to make this list of 20 pilots today. Trust me, I can add many other pilot career options to this list right now, but it’s getting late and I need to go take care of personal stuff. When you are a pilot, sky is not the limit for you anymore!

How to protect your Hearing in Aviation industry

  • Limiting duration of exposure to noise. OSHA established permissible noise exposure limits for the workplace (including the cockpit of an aircraft).
  • Use Hearing Protection Equipment. If the ambient noise level exceeds OSHA’s permissible noise exposure limits, you should use hearing protection devices—earplugs, earmuffs, communication headsets, or active noise reduction headsets. Even if an individual already has some level of permanent hearing loss, using hearing protection equipment should prevent further hearing damage. These protection devices attenuate noise waves before they reach the eardrum, and most of them are effective at reducing high-frequency noise levels above 1,000 Hz. It is very important to emphasize that the use of these devices does not interfere with speech communications during flight because they reduce high-frequency background noise, making speech signals clearer and more comprehensible.
  • Earplugs. Insertable-type earplugs offer a very popular, inexpensive, effective, and comfortable approach to provide hearing protection. To be effective, earplugs must be inserted properly to create an air-tight seal in the ear canal. The wax impregnated moldable polyurethane earplugs provide an effective universal fit for all users and provide 30 to 35 dB of noise protection across all frequency bands.
  • Communication headsets. In general, headsets provide the same level of noise attenuation as earmuffs, and are also more easily donned and removed that earplugs, but the microphone can interfere with the donning of an oxygen mask.
  • Active noise reduction headsets. This type of headset uses active noise reduction technology that allows the manipulation of sound and signal waves to reduce noise, improve signal-to-noise ratios, and enhance sound quality. Active noise reduction provides effective protection against low frequency noise. The electronic coupling of a low frequency noise wave with its exact mirror image cancels this noise.
  • Combinations of protection devices. The combination of earplugs with earmuffs or communication headsets is recommended when ambient noise levels are above 115dB. Earplugs, combined with active noise reduction headsets, provide the maximum level of individual hearing protection that can be achieved with current technology.

Types and Effects of Noise exposure in Aviation

In one of my previous articles we talked about the Sound, Hearing and Noise in aviation. You can read that article by clicking here. Let’s talk now about the types and effects of noise.

Types of Noise

Steady: Continuous noise of sudden or gradual onset and long duration (more than 1 second). Examples: aircraft power plant noise, propeller noise, and pressurization system noise. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the maximum permissible continuous exposure level to steady noise in a working environment is 90 dB for 8 hours.

Impulse/blast: Noise pulses of sudden onset and brief duration (less than 1 second) that usually exceed an intensity of 140dB. Examples: firing a handgun, detonating a firecracker, backfiring of a piston engine, high-volume squelching of radio equipment, and a sonic boom caused by breaking the sound barrier. The eardrum may be ruptured by intense levels (140dB) of impulse/blast noise.

EFFECTS OF NOISE EXPOSURE

Physiologic

  • Ear discomfort: May occur during exposure to a 120 dB noise.
  • Ear pain: May occur during exposure to a 130 dB noise.
  • Eardrum rupture: May occur during exposure to a 140 dB) noise.
  • Temporary hearing impairment. Unprotected exposure to loud, steady noise over 90 dB for a short time, even several hours, may cause hearing impairment. This effect is usually temporary and hearing returns to normal within several hours following cessation of the noise exposure.
  • Permanent hearing impairment: Unprotected exposure to loud noise (higher than 90dB) for eight or more hours per day for several years, may cause a permanent hearing loss. Permanent hearing impairment occurs initially in the vicinity of 4,000 Hz (outside the conversational range) and can go unnoticed by the individual for some time. It is also important to remember that hearing sensitivity normally decreases as a function of age at frequencies from 1,000 to 6,000 Hz, beginning around age 30.

Psychological

  • Subjective effects: Annoying high-intensity noise can cause distraction, fatigue, irritability, startle responses, sudden awakening and poor sleep quality, loss of appetite, headache, vertigo, nausea, and impair concentration and memory.
  • Speech interference: Loud noise can interfere with or mask normal speech, making it difficult to understand.
  • Performance: Noise is a distraction and can increase the number of errors in any given task. Tasks that require vigilance, concentration, calculations, and making judgments about time can be adversely affected by exposure to loud noise higher than 90 dB.

Selecting Sunglasses for Pilots

Pilot Sunglasses – Aviator

A Summary of how to select best Sunglasses for Pilots

Here is the summary of things to keep in mind while selecting the best sunglasses for pilots, and for that matter, just about anyone who wants to protect his or her vision and have the best quality visual perception. There are other articles (listed at the bottom of this post) on this blog which talk about all this in great detail. Maybe you should read all those articles as well to gain maximum knowledge on the subject. 

SUMMARY.

  1. While adding to the mystique of an aviator, sunglasses protect a pilot’s eyes from glare associated with bright sunlight and the harmful effects from exposure to solar radiation.
  2. Lenses for sunglasses that incorporate 100% ultraviolet protection are available in glass, plastic, and polycarbonate materials. Glass and CR-39® plastic lenses have superior optical qualities, while polycarbonate lenses are lighter and more impact-resistant.
  3. The choice of tints for use in the aviation environment should be limited to those that optimize visual performance while minimizing color distortion, such as a neutral gray tint with 15 to 30% light transmittance.
  4. Polarized sunglasses are not recommended because of their possible interaction with displays or other materials in the cockpit environment.
  5. Since sunglasses are an important asset, whether or not refractive correction is required, careful consideration should be used when selecting an appropriate pair for flying.
  6. The technology associated with ophthalmic lenses is continually evolving, with the introduction of new materials, designs, and manufacturing techniques.
  7. Aviators should consult with their eye care practitioner for the most effective alternatives currently available when choosing a new pair of sunglasses.

References

  1. La Comission Interntionale de l’Eclairage (CIE). Figures correspond broadly to the effects of UVR on biological tissue.
  2. World Meteorological Organization. Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion: 1994, WMO Global Ozone Research and Monitoring Project – Report No. 37, Geneva, Switzerland: 1995.
  3. Rash CE, Manning SD. For Pilots, Sunglasses are Essential in Vision Protection, Flight Safety Foundation Human Factors & Aviation Medicine, July-August 2002; 49(4): 1-8.
  4. MEDICAL FACTS FOR PILOTS Publication AM-400-05/1 Written by Ronald W. Montgomery, B.S. Van B. Nakagawara, O.D. Prepared by FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute Aerospace Medical Education Division AAM-400, P.O. Box 25082 Oklahoma City, OK 73125
Tony Scott – Top Gun – the movie

Pilot’s Sunglasses’ Additional Features

I wrote about the basic information about a Pilot’s Sunglasses in one of my posts titled Sunglasses for Pilots (click here), and then I wrote about the Materials that are available today, and how to pick the correct kind in the post titled Aviators’ Sunglasses Lens Material Options (click here). And I had promised that I will write more about the Extra Features that we need to keep in mind when selecting the best Sunglasses for Pilots, and for that matter, anyone who wants the best eye protection and quality vision.

Here is the list of those extra features that you need to keep in mind as well:

COATINGS

Special coatings can be applied to lens materials for reasons such as those previously mentioned. Crown glass and most plastic lenses require a specific coating to block residual ultraviolet radiation. Plastic and polycarbonate lenses require a scratch-resistant coating to prolong their useful life. The scratch-resistant coating applied to polycarbonate lenses absorb tints and dyes. High-index materials benefit from AR coatings to improve transmissivity due to their high reflective properties.

While AR coats can improve optical clarity, they are extremely porous, attracting water and oils, making the lenses difficult to clean. Lenses with AR coatings should be “sealed” with a smudge- and water-repellant coat that extends the useful life of the AR coat and makes the lenses easier to keep clean. Coatings must be applied correctly, and lenses must be meticulously cleaned for the process to be successful. Coated lenses should be handled with care and not subjected to excessive heat to avoid delamination or crazing.

TINTS

The choice of tints for sunglasses is practically infinite. The three most common tints are gray, gray-green, and brown, any of which would be an excellent choice for the aviator. Gray (neutral density filter) is recommended because it distorts color the least. Some pilots, however, report that gray-green and brown tints enhance vividness and minimize scattered (blue and violet) light, thus enhancing contrast in hazy conditions. Yellow, amber, and orange (i.e., “Blue Blockers”) tints eliminate short-wavelength light from reaching the wearer’s eyes and reportedly sharpen vision, although no scientific studies support this claim.3 In addition, these tints are known to distort colors, making it difficult to distinguish the color of navigation lights, signals, or color-coded maps and instrument displays. For flying, sunglass lenses should screen out only 70 – 85% of visible light and not appreciably distort color. Tints that block more than 85% of visible light are not recommended for flying due to the possibility of reduced visual acuity, resulting in difficulty seeing instruments and written material inside the cockpit.

POLARIZATION

Polarized lenses are not recommended for use in the aviation environment. While useful for blocking reflected light from horizontal surfaces such as water or snow, polarization can reduce or eliminate the visibility of instruments that incorporate anti-glare filters. Polarized lenses may also interfere with visibility through an aircraft windscreen by enhancing striations in laminated materials and mask the sparkle of light that reflects off shiny surfaces such as another
aircraft’s wing or windscreen, which can reduce the time a pilot has to react in a “see-and-avoid” traffic situation.

PHOTOCHROMIC

Glass photo chromic lenses (PhotoGray® and PhotoBrown®), like their plastic counterparts (Transitions®), automatically darken when exposed to ultraviolet and become lighter in dim light. Most of the darkening takes place in the first 60 seconds, while lightening may take several minutes. Although most photo chromic lenses can get as dark as regular sunglasses, i.e., 20% light transmittance in direct sunlight, warm temperatures (>70°F) can seriously limit their ability to darken and reduced ultraviolet exposure in a cockpit can further limit their effectiveness. In addition, the faded state of photo chromic glass lenses may not be clear enough to be useful when flying in cloud cover or at night.

FRAMES

The selection of sunglass frames is probably more a matter of personal preference than lens material or tint. The frames of an aviator’s sunglasses, however, must be functional and not interfere with communication headsets or protective breathing equipment. Frame styles that incorporate small lenses may not be practical, since they allow too much visible light and ultraviolet radiation to pass around the edges of the frame. A sunglass frame should be sturdy enough to take some abuse without breaking, yet light enough to be comfortable. An aviator’s sunglasses should fit well so that sudden head movements from turbulence or aerobatic maneuvers do not displace them. Finally, use of a strap is recommended to prevent prescription sunglasses from being accidentally dislodged, or a necklace chain can be used to allow them to be briefly removed and subsequently replaced.

Aviators’ Sunglasses Lens Material Options

ULTRA-VOILET RAYS

In one of my previous post – Sunglasses for Pilots, we talked about why it is extremely important for a Pilot to be very careful about choosing proper quality and material for the Sunglasses.

The American Optometric Association recommends wearing sunglasses that incorporate 99 – 100% UVA and UVB protection. Fortunately, UVC, the most harmful form of ultraviolet radiation, is absorbed by the atmosphere’s ozone layer before it reaches the Earth’s surface. Some scientists believe, however, that depletion of the ozone layer may allow more ultraviolet to pass through the atmosphere, making 100% ultraviolet protection a wise choice when selecting eyewear.

LENS MATERIAL

Commonly Used Lens Material The three most common lens materials in use today are optical quality “crown” glass, monomer plastic (CR-39®), and polycarbonate plastic (see Table 1). Lenses made from crown glass provide excellent optical properties (as indicated by the high Abbe value). Crown glass is more scratch resistant but heavier and less impact-resistant than plastic. Glass absorbs some ultraviolet light; however, absorption is improved by adding certain chemicals during the manufacturing process or by applying a special coating. Glass retains tints best over time; however, for higher refractive correction, the color may be less uniform, as parts of the lens will be thicker than others (see Figure 2).

Fig 2. Non Uniform Tints CR-39® plastic lenses possess excellent optical qualities, are lighter in weight, and more impact-resistant than glass lenses, but are more easily scratched, even when scratch resistant coatings are applied. CR-39® lenses tint easily and uniformly, even for those requiring a great deal of refractive correction, but do not hold tints as well as glass. CR-39® plastic can be bleached and re-tinted if fading becomes excessive at some point.

High-index materials (i.e., index of refraction —1.60) are available in both glass and plastic for those who require a large degree of refractive correction and/or desire lighter, thinner lenses. High-index materials are not as widely available, require AR coats to improve optical clarity, and a scratch-resistant coating for durability. In addition, most high-index materials do not accept tints as easily and are less shatter resistant than polycarbonate.

In my next article (click here) you can read about other qualities that you should look for in a Pilot’s or an Aviator’s Sunglasses; like coatings, tints, polarization, frames etc.

Sean D. Tucker with Oprah Winfrey (video)

Ok guys. The other day I wrote about Sean D. Tucker, the world famous aerobatic pilot, who also is an honorary Thunderbird and Blue Angel, and performs for the the Team Oracle, and was supposed to be on Oprah’s TV show. If you did not get a chance to get the courage, or time, to sit and watch that show, here is a YouTube video recording of the show for you.

And if you do not know who Sean Tucker is, you can click here and read all about him in my previous post. The show was nice; with Sean in it, of course. His competition this time, for the time and attention on the Oprah was Oprah’s new favorite pair of jeans. Obviously, we don’t have the jeans part in this video. If you really want to watch that segment, the one with her jeans, you can always go to YouTube and search for it.

Sean is the only civilian pilot that I know of, who has flown in formation with the Blue Angels, Thunderbirds , and the Canadian Snowbirds. He has many other awards, recognitions, and things like that under his belt.

He trained with Amelia Reid; the first lady of aviation of California at Reid Hillview airport, San Jose, CA. And BTW, so did Rod Machado.

We’ll talk about Amelia Reid and Rod Machado some other time. Now go ahead and watch the Sean Tucker and Oprah video, and leave a comment here if you wish.