Friday, February 3, 2012

8th flight Lesson: A healthy lifestyle, effects not only your body

This weekend our mission was to take a short hop over to KDXR-Danbury Municipal Airport. Our plan was to land at Danbury and then take off and do some air-work. We were seeing our flight to Danbury as a sort of practice run, being the coming Monday we were planning to fly in at night for an FAA sponsored seminar: "The Physiology of Pilot Error !".

For those of you who are not familiar with this airport, it is especially hilly coming in on runway 35. You have to maneuver in between two hills to reach the runway. There are also other obstructions (including trees, hills, and a temporary unlit tower reaching 750 msl) around the airport. Making this airport an interesting challenge to land at, particularly if it is windy. So we felt coming in during the day would be great practice to prepare for Monday's evening flight.   

                                                                Landing at Danbury CT

After landing and setting up to take off on runway 17 (notice you can see the hills I mentioned earlier on the reciprocal of  runway17; runway 35 in the picture below).  After taking off we stayed over the water near Bridgeport Connecticut. Bryan first practiced some slow flight. The he had me do two clearing turns, one to the right, then to the left to check for traffic.

Then Bryan demonstrated some steep banks for me. We started with a 360 degree turn at a 30 degree of bank. Basically this is making a full circle holding, a 30 degree bank angle and keeping your attitude, airspeed steady and coordinated control input (of the rudder, ailerons, elevators, power). You should finish the circle at the same point you started. If you do it right you will feel a slight buffeting at the end of the turn; which is your your aircraft wake created by wingtip vortex (wikipedia:"vortices) is a spinning, often turbulent, flow of fluid/Air. Any spiral motion with closed streamlines is vortex flow. The motion of the fluid swirling rapidly around a center is called a vortex").

We then went on to 45 and 60 degree banks. The 60 degree banks totally freak me out. If you keep your attitude during this bank, you feel two G's against your body (twice your body's weight). The feeling is completely foreign then what we ordinarily experience in everyday life. For me I not only feel the weight, but completely disoriented (like my world just went upside down), and I feel the bleed drain from my head and the top part of my body which has me feeling a little light headed.

Bryan showing me a 60 degree bank, shortly after I start to get freaked
After the steep turns we handed back to the airport.  When Monday hit, we arrived at the airport early, and took our time getting ready. Bryan as usual did a superb landing on runway 26 (see below for video of the landing). We arrived at the FAA meeting early, and were treated to a smorgasbord of food (complements of Sean Walsh of Motion Simulations, LLC).

The main topic as the title suggested ("The Physiology of Pilot Error ! -Understanding How Your Lifestyle Affects Your Flying Safety.") was seeing how a pilots over-all physical health, well being, and state of mind can effect a pilots decision making skills, and sometimes cause them to make mistakes they might not ordinarily make. Like for instance if you are tired, stressed, or sick; these states can cause you and your brain to not to operate at it's peak efficiency. Which can cause you to make mistakes that could lead to adverse consequences (like crashing).
One of my favorite parts and titbits of important information I picked up in this seminar, was the importance of staying hydrated which I often do not think about while flying (or otherwise actually). I bring water on every flight, but rarely drink it. What was even more revealing, was when Nina Anderson (one of the FAA speakers that evening) in her talk advised that most of the water we drink is depleted of minerals (that includes tap and bottled water), therefore we are basically drinking "dead water" as she called it. 

The minerals missing from water are vital for optimum brain function. Nina didn't suggest a Gatorade during flight, due to the high sugar content (& caffeine in some)  in these energy drinks. Which cause other negative effects on the brain (like crashing from a sugar high), which are also not good for optimum brain function. There is a solution to this lack of minerals in your water that has hit the market. It's called Electro Blast. It has all the electrolyte and minerals you need, and you can add it to almost any drink.

After this wonderfully put together event, we head back home. By the time we made it back to Brooklyn it was well past 11:30pm, and we were both exhausted. Both of us were also hungry and ready to park our vehicle as quickly as possible. Both of us carefully looking for parking on a Tuesday spot. In New York City certain blocks are "cleaned" by a public cleaning truck.  On the day a side of the street is scheduled to be clean, you have to move it to the other side of the street. What was amazing, was in our exhaustion, we both choose the wrong side to park on that evening, and unfortunately received a parking ticket the next day.

It goes to show how important it is to make sure you are at your peak performance (physically) before you go flying. An error like parking on the wrong side of the street may be a slight inconvenience (having to pay a parking ticket), however in the air it could result in much worse.


  1. This is another great aviation-related lifestyle story!

    Really causes one to re-evaluate our dietary and sleep habits. It's so important, especially for flying pilots.

    I loved reading it! Thanks!

  2. You're Welcome Windtee! Yep keeping your health in tip-top shape is very important for keeping you healthy in your every day life existence, as well keeping you a safe pilot.