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FEA TURE

and psychological state common to a pro- fessional pilot’s development. I began as an anxious and somewhat bewildered stu- dent, and progressed to a totally over- whelmed war zone “new guy;” graduated from combat as a cocky, over-confident “Nam Vet;” gradually mellowed into a mortal being who realized he just might be subject to mundane earthly limitations (like the law of gravity); and finally set- tled into what I feel is a mature “steady Eddie” state of reality where pressures and stereotypes have limited influence. I have learned to accept that none of us can be everything to everyone, and you have to have a set of rules to live by that constitute your “line in the sand”. You need some guides that will act as a cata- lyst for restraint when the ego wants to stay in control. In some circles this ego is referred to as the fool or the idiot. This id- iot is not very bright at times, but has great powers of persuasion and deception, and once he takes over he loves to lead the “normal self” down forbidden paths and into his world of delusion. Evidence that the ego is always lurking, no matter how many years of experience you have, is born out by the number of experi- enced/senior pilots who are involved in mishaps resulting from purely bad deci- sions, or a non-decision, under pressure. One good rule that was introduced into my career a few years ago was the idea of an enroute decision criteria based on pre-determined limits rather than some gut feeling that things weren’t going too well, or a realization that I was already in trouble. These limits are not so depen- dent on a “pilot’s estimate” of flight visi- bility, which is often very difficult to determine anyway; and it compensates for the temptation to declare the visibility much better than it is when you are highly motivated to “stay the course”. The rule is the 90 knot/300 foot En-route decision point (EDP). If flight conditions require a descent below 300 feet AGL and/or de- celeration below 90 knots to maintain comfortable visual contact with the route ahead, a decision is triggered to (1) re- verse course, (2) land and call for rein- forcements, or (3) transition to IFR.

The

90/300 rule applies to daylight conditions and at night it is extended to 90 knots and 500 feet.

Since the current FAA Operations Specification for air medical providers

President George Bush awards Capt. Ed Freeman the Medal of Honor on July 16, 2001 photo: The White House

limits en-route visibility to 3 miles as a minimum, one might suggest that if you have to use the 90 knot 300 foot criteria you have already violated the minimums. You are probably right, but the rule still has value under conditions where Mother Nature sets out to play tricks on you, es- pecially during adverse lighting conditions such as night or winter whiteout/flat light. Those are high probability moments for the “idiot-you” to take control of the “ra- tional-you” and attempt to convince the “under-pressure-you” that clear sailing is just over the next ridgeline or around the next bend.

Not long ago I was on a night cross-

country transport using NVG in somewhat limited visibility due to haze and light snow falling from a 2,000-foot ceiling. The prevailing surface visibility to my 10 o’clock position was estimated at seven to ten miles using known lights and land- marks. At my 2 o’clock position, my in- tended flight route, there were no lights visible and none were expected because of the remoteness of the area. But, through the NVG I could see what I be- lieved to be a familiar snow-covered ridge line about 8 miles away. After proceeding approximately 2 miles on course, it be- came necessary to reduce the airspeed to maintain appropriate ground reference. A quick flash of the landing light revealed that the light snow had increased to mod-

10 ROTORCRAFT PROFESSIONAL • March 2010

erate snow, which was not readily appar- ent through the NVG against the snow- covered ground. A few moments later I realized that my once familiar ridgeline was actually a ground-based stratus cloud between that ridgeline and my position. While it appeared that circumnavigating the obstruction might have potential, the 90 knot limit was reached and the flight was aborted.

The value of the EDP procedure is that it took the emotion and guesswork out of the enroute decision. There was no, “I think I could try the route to the left and see how it goes”, or “maybe I should push on just a bit farther to see if the in- tensity of the snow decreases”. The de- cision was cut and dried, and because the procedure is published in the company operations manual, I had confidence that my decision would stand up under any scrutiny. In addition, since the crew is trained on this procedure as a part of our CRM training, I had both their support and also their enforcement. It was liter- ally a no-brainer. Incidentally, a review of the weather charts after returning to base revealed that conditions over the route and at the destination had become worse than forecast, so the decision to abort the transport was timely. EDP adds an element of methodical, checklist type certainty to the weather re- lated en-route decision-making process. Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52
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