More Cockpit Stress


In the May 2019 issue, I couldn’t help but note the connection between Key Dismukes’ article “Stress in the Cockpit” and Mr. Burnside’s observations in “Cockpit Communication.” When there is poor communication in the cockpit, stress levels are going to rise. It doesn’t matter if the communication shortfall takes place in the air or on the ground. Two of the four categories of errors made by airline crews that were pointed out by Dr. Dismukes were “inadequate comprehension, interpretation, or assessment of a situation,” and “inadequate communication.” These categories are faithful descriptions of the failure to explicitly define and communicate expectations that your friend experienced with his flight instructor.

Flight (including ground) training these days emphasizes risk management, as well it should. But perhaps thought should be given to incorporating the concept of “stress management” into aviation training. We talk a lot about “cockpit resource management” as something that we want to work for us. Allowing stress levels to be aggravated by poor communication seems to me to be a situation that stands in the way of effective CRM. Being sensitive to rising stress levels may give us a pretty good indicator that something is amiss.

Jim Goldman
West Chester, Penn.

Excellent points, Jim. Thanks! We’ve all gotten stressed out by an instructor, for both useful and not-so-useful reasons. We‘ve sometimes wondered if a CFI is deliberately adding stress to a situation to see how we react. If we can’t handle it with a CFI in the right seat on a calm, sunny day, how will we do when the chips are down?

Is ADS-B In Helping?

The study of the impact of ADS-B In on safety (June 2019) suggested an implausibly large benefit (An 88-percent reduction in fatal events? Really?). There’s a reason for that: the so-called “healthy participant effect,” demonstrated in many medical studies. In short, people who select one healthy behavior probably select other healthy behaviors as well.

In the study cited, there’s a hidden presumption that the population of pilots with ADS-B In and the population without ADS-B In are otherwise similar in their flying behaviors, but it’s a virtual certainty that they aren’t. Those sufficiently motivated to equip with ADS-B Out years before the mandate takes effect likely also make other safety-oriented choices, and this study is measuring the cumulative effect of all those choices. The amount of benefit attributable solely to ADS-B In is indeterminate, and is not necessarily different from zero.

Michael D. Decker, MD, MPH
Via email

We don’t disagree, and eagerly await other studies of ADS-B’s impact on general aviation safety.

Air Mass Storms

As a 15-year reader of Aviation Safety, I have read dozens of informative articles, but never one so thoroughly helpful as Mike Hart’s excellent treatise on thunderstorms (“Air Mass Storms,” July 2019). I learned just how much I didn’t know about pop-up thunderstorms by his clear and precise explanations, and the accompanying visual aids and sidebars. Once again, this year, I’m flying my Aviat Husky from Southern California to KOSH and expect some convective airmets, but I feel far more comfortable having absorbed all that the article offered. Thanks for all you do.

Glenn Wishon
Via email

Thanks, Glenn! We hope your trip to KOSH was as safe and enjoyable as ours.

GPS Interference


I read your article in the July issue of Aviation Safety about interference between the SPOT personal tracker and GPS receivers.

I use an echoUAT ADS-B transceiver in my aircraft and have regularly used a SPOT in flight. I’ve noticed several instances of my echoUAT becoming “disconnected” during flight. Several fixes were attempted, in increasing complexity finally culminating with a complete rebuild of the unit at the factory, all with no success. After reading your article, I ran a field test with the SPOT inactive. During a three-hour flight, I experienced no interruptions whereas before, I would normally experience two or three interruptions per hour. I suspect that my SPOT unit is indeed interfering with my ADS-B unit. Additionally, I had also fitted my aircraft with a Scout ADS-B In receiver as a backup in case my echoUAT unit reported a “disconnect.” It, too, reported several “disconnects” while using my SPOT PED.

A few more field trials need to be conducted, but I’m beginning to suspect that the SPOT unit is the culprit in the disconnects for both ADS-B devices. Although I’ve used SPOT for many years with complete satisfaction and I am very happy with the unit itself, I think I’ll no longer be able to use my ADS-B unit(s) in conjunction with my SPOT unit.

Please encourage the FAA to disseminate this information on the widest possible basis. SPOT is very popular and widely used, as its use is encouraged by search and rescue organizations. I’m sure that the excellent information that you presented is, unfortunately, unknown to the majority of aircraft users. Not everyone reads and subscribes to Aviation Safety (yet).

Regards and thanks.

Chris Waggener
Via email


Getting It Right

The article “The Top Five Things To Get Right” in the August 2019 issue was right on target and full of good information. However, I must offer an alternative to the contention that “getting the instrument rating and keeping it current is perhaps the single most important thing a pilot can do to minimize the risk of a weather-related accident.” What about installing a modern autopilot that can fly approaches?

Keeping an instrument rating current is not a simple or inexpensive thing, and I believe intentionally flying in IMC in a piston single is not a risk to be taken lightly, let alone doing it just to remain current. Instrument training is without doubt valuable, but it can also be used to learn how to use the autopilot to approach an airport when conditions have deteriorated.

I regularly practice (in VFR conditions) getting to the short final of the nearest airport by using the autopilot and not touching the yoke. Some might point out that the autopilot could fail, but the likelihood of that happening simultaneously with a flight into IMC for someone who is diligent at avoiding IMC is small. Others will say that this type of autopilot is expensive. But so is keeping IFR currency, and accidents can be very expensive.

Doug Harvey
Glen Allen, Virginia

We know VFR-only pilots have successfully flown in IMC by depending on an autopilot, but we don’t recommend it. Additionally, earning the instrument rating provides much more than “merely” the ability to legally operate in poor weather. Learning autopilots and how to fly in IMC is not an either/or situation.


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