Wednesday, January 18, 2012

7th Flight, January 7th 2012 - Lesson: "Unable"

Republic Airport, quite busy; see all the planes lined up to take-off?

Today was truly a beautiful awesome day to go flying. The weather reached some 65°F. It felt like a warm spring day. When we arrived at the airport the parking lot was filled to capacity. I asked Bryan if there was a special event going on at the flight school (Nassau Flyers, He said as far as he knew there wasn’t anything special going on. While Bryan got set up and got everything together I went in to the school ahead of him, and immediately spotted the owner Don. I asked him if they were having a special event or something at the school today, “Nope” he said, “It's just a beautiful day and we are very busy.” Wow, since Bry and I started flying together mid November the school had always been moderately busy, however today it was like grand central station.

After getting a weather briefing and using the restroom, we headed out to the airplane to preflight. We took off at around 2pm. For this flight we planned not to go too far out, and revisit Nantucket Island. The last time we visited it, it was during dinner time, and we really did not get to see too much in the evening. This time we hoped we could perhaps get a cab into the mainland of the Island and see a bit more of it than we did the last time.

Shortly after take-off we experienced some mild turbulence, and were rocked and rolled a bit. Bryan mentioned that the flight felt like summer flying. In the summer when the ground heats up, this creates “convective currents” ("convective currents are most active on warm summer afternoons when winds are light. Heated air at the surface creates a shallow, unstable layer, and the warm air is forced upward.”), which can cause some bumpy air during flight. After we got high enough away from the warm surface the air smoothed out, and was like glass for the rest of our flight over to Nantucket Island.
Marthas Vineyard (MVY)

When we arrived at Nantucket Memorial Airport, ATC (Air Traffic Controller) gave us clearance to land on runway 24. Just as we were setting up to land, I heard another airplane coming in head of us, and he specifically requested runway 33 from ATC. I wondered why until we got a bit closer and lower to runway 24. The sun was almost blinding as we came in. Lucky Bryan due to his sharp flying skill was able to complete a perfect landing right on center. I realized that for me though, I wouldn’t have been comfortable coming in with the sun that bright and in my direct line of the runway. I would have most likely done what the other aircraft had done and request the other runway.

I’m learning that as the pilot of the ship you have the final authority over the operations on the flight. So if ACT requests you to do something that you feel is unsafe for you or that is beyond your capabilities, you have the right to say: “Unable”. They will ask you: “Say intentions”, and then you can give them your suggestion or plan of action.

This reminds me of a taped transmission I recently heard between a major commercial airliner and a controller. ATC had asked the commercial airliner to come in on a certain runway. Due to crosswinds and low fuel the pilot did not feel that runway was the safest course for them. The pilot requested another runway. The air traffic controller came back to the aircraft asking them to continue on course (and basically ignoring their request for the other runway). The pilot of the aircraft upon hearing this said if ATC would not comply with their request they were going to declare an emergency. As per the federal regulations, a pilot can declare an emergency if they feel the flight is in danger (As per Federal Aviation Regulations AIM: Chapter 6: "The pilot-in-command of an aircraft is directly responsible for and is the final authority as to the operation of that aircraft. In an emergency requiring immediate action.” Chapter 5: "pilot who encounters a DISTRESS condition may declare an emergency by beginning the initial communication with the word MAYDAY”).

To hear this transmission click the attached

This flight taught me, to be honest with ATC, if I can not comply with a request and doing so would be unsafe to the flight, I have the legal right to say: “Unable”.

When we arrived we headed over to Nantucket Memorial Airport’s wonderful restaurant “Crosswinds” for some lunch. We did notice upon entering the restaurant that the celebration vibe in the air had deflated. The last time we had been there was just before Christmas, and the air definitely had a festive ambiance. When we walked in the staff was taking down all the decorations. The food was of course as wonderful as it was the first time. This time both Bry and I choose to have fish and chips. The fish was so fresh it literally melted in your month.

Well, till next flight.

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