View Full Version : Back to "the right stuff"?

cosmo kramer
10th Oct 2001, 18:49
These RUMOURS AND NEWS was posted in The Boston Globe. Instead of me copy-pasting the article follow this link for the full article:

New flight plan Airline pilots have a take-charge attitude about defending planes (http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/283/living/New_flight_plan+.shtml)

The link was originally posted by SaturnV but I would like to put it in another light, hence the new topic.

Some quotes:

From pilots:
"What I can do is stick the guy on the ceiling, and then drop him on the floor," declared Captain Steve Pierce, 48, a pilot for Southwest Airlines for 18 years and a former Navy fighter pilot.

"I will flip the plane over, turn it upside down," explained Captain Jim Lortscher, a Shuttle America pilot who was with the Navy for 16 years.

"Pilots have more and more been relegated to a stance of, you drive the plane, and we'll take care of everything else," said Emens, who lives in Annapolis, Md. "I think now there is more of a realization that pilots have to be more in the loop. Basically, we are demanding an increased role. If I am going to be up there, I want to know everything."

Trained and retrained in the commercial sphere, they are machine operators for whom procedure is a mantra, and routine a watchword. But they are also men - and all but 3 percent are men - instilled with a powerful sense of self, a warrior's confidence in their own abilities. It is a trait that has come into dramatic focus in the aftermath of Sept. 11, as the nation's pilots seek to reassert control of their aircraft, to wrest them back from beneath the shroud of the terrorists' attacks.

I think that procedures are good in normal operation to ensure consistently safe operation. However, there have been some examples in the recent years where following predetermined procedures have proven not to be the best solution (i.e Swissair 111). The procedures concerning hijackings have been widely know as the crew assuming a passive role and complying with the hijackers demands. Looking in the mirror it may not have been the most wise choice to let the public and potential hijacker know how airlines deals with such situations.

A few more quotes:

From the FAA:
Jim Peters, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration's regional office, refused to comment on specific plans of action, such as pulling G's, or refusing to come out of the cockpit. But when pilots are in the air, he said, they are the ones in charge.

"The pilot is given great discretion in how he operates his aircraft," said Peters. "There are rules that govern how they are to fly the aircraft, but there are situations where they may elect to take actions that are not in the book. That is their call."

"The management":
Southwest, like other airlines, has implemented some new procedures in response to the events of Sept. 11, although it is still working on a long-term policy. Spokeswoman Kristin Nelson declined to comment on some of the specific maneuvers pilots say they have in mind, but she said that, "in an emergency situation we are going to be relying on our pilots' best judgments. We certainly will have policies and procedures in place for them as guidelines. But when push comes to shove, it's ultimately their decision."

Have airlines pilots become monkeys? That blindly follow procedures, despite that they may not be the best solution?

Should procedures be downplayed and leave more decisions be at the pilots discresion and best judgement?

Personally I think that no airline should make any information public regarding how they would deal with hijackers. If different airlines have different procedures, that would be best too. No hijacker should have the advantage in knowing how the crew might act.

Regarding procedures in general I think that leaving more to a highly trained flightcrew may save lives when an highly abnormal situation arises. Some call it superprocedures. I guess that is just a term of "no procedures" as well.

Wig Wag
10th Oct 2001, 22:48
I'll second all that.

I have long felt that the commercial people are only too happy to undermine the authority of the Captain in the name of punctuality.

Now it is obvious that survival of the airframe is paramount and the boot is on the other foot.

I will do the utmost to save my aircraft and reserve the authority to take any action I feel appropriate.

11th Oct 2001, 20:54
I do feel a tat inadequate in comparison to the above fierce warriors. I was only moping my barrack's floor in the French Air Force during my 12 months wholeheartedly given to my mother land ............and all that sort of stuff !!
Geeee !! Got it !! I'll hit the suckers on the head with my broom !!
That's what I call back to the real stuff !! :)

cosmo kramer
11th Oct 2001, 21:49
Hello Wallabie

That was not the point. As I said I want to put the article in another light than SaturnV's inverting the airplane to thwart hijackers thread.

The point is, if you want to hit the hijacker with your broom because you think that is the best decision, shouldn't you be allowed to do so??

I am sure, if you are flying for an airline, that you have to comply with the hijacker's demands according to your procedures (probably atleast before Sep 11th).

Do you think that there should be procedures for everything? Personally I think that much more should be left to the pilot (the right stuff that thinks for himself and makes decisions accordingly) and not be laid down in endless procedures for the "systemoperator" (the wrong stuff) to comply with blindly.

12th Oct 2001, 12:02
G'day Cosmo

Yes, I do fly for an airline that surprinsingly is doing rather well, I'll let you guess but that isn't really the point is it ?
Yes our SOP's cover everyhting including when one should be allowed to have a wee, that's for the insurance compagny. It also says at the end that the Captain is allowed to do whatever he sees fit and will be of course held accountable for. One of the perks of this noble profession.
I was just amused by the very warrior like declarations of our esteemed US colleagues.
The closest I have been to combat was watching " Top Gun " on my VCR digging into the popcorn bowl and I somehow get very thingy when I hear loud brawl in a smoky bar . Action is all that counts to me, by that I mean what you end up doing in the heat of the momment and frankly the kind of violence we would be facing in these events is far more frightening than just plain war. You are facing fanatics, cruel fanatics, not soldiers who may be prepared to give their lives but would nevertheless be mighty happy to stay alive but loonies whose purpose is to die.
Unlike the US, most of airline pilots here are of civilian background and statements like what was posted above are not really in fashion. Call it hypocrit, dunno, but the fact remains that Europe isn't so much a gunho culture as the States. No judgement here, just plain fact.
So to be entirely honest I have no clue what I would end up doing. As I said, the broom is a good start. Well not entirely true, first bolt the cockpit door and take it from there hoping I'll do good.
Anyway, back to SOP's, I think it just comes to individuals. I know some guys who donk SOP's from sunrise to sunset just because they're freaking scared and some others who have a more healthy attitude. Let's not forget to that whenever there is a problem the press comes snooping to find out wether the particular issue had been covered. So airlines need to cover their ass to.

[ 12 October 2001: Message edited by: wallabie ]

12th Oct 2001, 13:16
hello Wallabie
Never wondered why you just had to mop the barracks floor in the FAF - which is not one of the poorest in the world, I would assume (how many other european AF have been constanly involved in flying combat missons all around the world for the past 25 years ?) so yes, there was combat options in your conscription year, but it was not for anybody.
If the closest you have been to combat has been to watch Top Gun on your VCR, OK... so in that case maybe listen to other people with relevant experience - there are surely plenty of them in your company, just ask...

Bombing is more fun than air defence, because you kill bad guys in bigger numbers.