Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Distracted Solutions

I'm peeved. The FAA and NTSB already has access to a recording of the last 30 minutes of each flight, which they can review in case of an accident. That will soon become the last 2 hours of the flight. I've got no complaints about that. But this latest “safety” initiative that you just read about by these agencies, and some of their stooges in Congress, is an insult to our intelligence and integrity, and if implemented will itself become a cockpit distraction.

Big Brother wants to hear all of the conversation in our cockpits, all of the time. I think this is unchecked government intrusion that can grow like cancer. Moreover, the need for this invasion is not borne out by facts. Despite some isolated incidents, we have brought about the safest era of flying in history.

Yes, there are exceptions. In Buffalo last year 50 died when two neophytes that should have never been in that cockpit prattled like school kids while their plane stalled. That was an anomaly.

And the guys who overflew their destination while working with their laptops? Another anomaly. Nobody died. Not even close.

So, comes now the corporate manager, who jumps on the government bandwagon to show his “concern” with this “problem.” He seeks to garner brownie points with the regulators by conjuring up a new rule to reduce cockpit distraction.
While high over the North Atlantic, riding along in the quiet ebony skies, the three auto-pilots performing flawlessly, we sent an innocuous ACARS message to Dispatch: GOT A SCORE ON THE SUPER BOWL YET? Not only were we curious about the game but several of our passengers had asked me prior to takeoff that I keep them informed about the score.

Shortly a message issued from the printer. My F/O tore it off, read it and looked at me, mouth agape. I took it.


Here. Read it for yourself:
Sorry, indeed. Needless-to-say, we got miffed. In fact, we got so miffed that the very message became a nagging distraction as we let down into the demanding London terminal area.

After we got on the bus to the hotel one of the F/Os got on his Blackberry to spread the word to his friends about the message. Others had also gotten it it. Then he learned that the new “policy” had suddenly been rescinded―only two hours after it was issued.

So, had someone else, even higher up the management ladder, seen it as nonsense? Or had our union found out about it and slapped some sense into the company's face?

Don't know. All I know is that problems, real or perceived, don't get solved with cockeyed, knee-jerking directives. The idea of monitoring cockpit talk falls solidly into that category.


BTW sports fans, what does the red lines across the message mean?


One of my favorite sights: The contrail angle swing.
Man! Do I have a good job, or what?

Quote of the post:
"A recession is when you have to tighten your belt; depression is when you have no belt to tighten. When you've lost your trousers, you're in the airline business."
--Sir Adam Thompson

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

"The red lines"... Duh! They mean your printer is almost out of paper. I thought every pilot knew that!

Alan Cockrell said...

Bingo. You pass your oral.

Brent said...

You have reason to be upset for plenty of reasons.

Frank Van Haste said...

Cap'n Cockrell:

Serious question here...how would you feel about a proposal that would make CVR info available for research and review if and only if altitude was < 10,000 ft AGL?

Rgds,

Frank

ggbud@mchsi.com said...

You have a great job, and your printer is about to run out of paper!

CFC

Lakotahope said...

Great contrail shot!!! Felt good to see it...

Anonymous said...

On the contrail.... What was the vertical gap? Thank god for rvsm! Great blog!

Bob said...

On the contrail shot...I'll just type out what I said after I watched it: "Wow...wow...wow".

I can be more eloquent if needed, but I think that pretty much ties it together.

Thanks Captain!

Bob

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...how about recording Big Brother behind their closed doors so we can monitor them?

Thanks for such a great blog. I always enjoy your posts

Squatch said...

Hmmm. Seems like someone in the FAA needs to do a little math. Let's think about this perposterous idea a little further. With an daily average of 29,000 commercial flights a day you are talking about 58,000 hours of cockpit recording a day. This adds up to 21 MILLION hours of cockpit recordings a year to store, sort, record, enter into databases and analyze. After every flight the recording would have to be downloaded from the recorder and stored somewhere. Last time I edited a video I took from a video camera, I had to watch it and number of times, and it wound up taking me 4 hours per hour of video to do anything with it. Let's assume the same inefficiency. Then we would have 85 MILLION hours of labor required to examine this data. Assume a loaded labor rate of $100 per hour, then the cost to examine the data would be 8.5 BILLION dollars per year. And that does not include the infrastructure to do so. Whose going to pay for that? Stupid stupid stupid. All this because we have about 200 deaths per year. Interestingly, by the mile, it is 1000 times more likely to die walking than flying. Why can't people think things through rather than making idiotic knee jerk reactions to appease the public and make themselves look like they are doing something. Someday I shall rant on the lunacy of airport security and nonsensical explosives scanners.

Beccalynn24 said...

Sounds like someone had a "great" idea to monitor flights while creating some new jobs... Poorly laid out plan; how many more years till you retire?

Mark Richards said...

Doesn't the CVR control panel have an erase button?

I'd push the sucker.

Lakotahope said...

That would show up on the other recorder. There was a crash long ago that the investigators mentioned the pilots resetting the boxes...privacy good but, deleting data overall I think is bad. Humans need to have the ability to say, what is being thought. The data would be stored and not wastefully scanned for each and every recording....maybe, the HIGHER people don't think idiot.

HAWK21M Blog said...

Out here [India] CVR recording of 2hrs is in place & erase button deactivated by removal of the card to prevent delibrate erasure

Anonymous said...

I suggest changing the Boeing 757/767 shutdown checklist to:

Parking brake...................Set
CVR Erase button.....Press and hold

GreenPilot said...

might as well implant robots on every 121 flight, and give them the ability to self-eject in event of an emergency. that way, when metal gets twisted and Washington wants answers, the robot can report on pilot error. problem solved.

I can't believe this is what the aviation industry is coming to. I never would have thought Colgan 3407 would be a step backwords in making our planes/pilots/flights safer. but that's where we're headed.