Archive for February, 2010

Berck and Jonah’s new Folly

6 February 2010 at 4:00 pm
by Berck

She’s all ours! She’s living in Neal’s Garage in Denver until I take a motorcycle class and can drive her home.

An Open Letter to ALPA

2 February 2010 at 11:34 pm
by Berck

Tonight, I received an e-mail from the Airline Pilots Association that included the following statement:

“We are deeply disappointed that the NTSB’s probable cause statement abandoned the systems approach to accident investigation that the International Civil Aviation Organization and other agencies around the world are adopting,” said Capt. John Prater, ALPA’s president. “During its discussions, the Board identified the need to improve training, develop experience, improve cockpit displays, enhance oversight, and provide better weather information to crews. However, the statement of probable cause failed to fully and directly acknowledge the many factors that contributed to this accident. Creating a safer industry means looking at all the reasons why this tragedy occurred and taking aggressive action to ensure nothing similar happens again.”

“With today’s report, the Board has missed a valuable opportunity to highlight the many factors that combined to cause this tragedy,” said Prater. “The conclusion of simple pilot error ignores the multitude of contributing factors in every accident. The single, narrow focus of the probable cause statement issued today is an unfortunate move backward away from that goal.”

I was so annoyed that I sent them the following:

I’m disheartened, disturbed, disappointed and disgusted with ALPA’s response to the NTSB’s probable cause finding regarding Colgan 3407. As frustrating as it is to admit, we pilots sometimes make mistakes, and sometimes people die as a result of those mistakes. When other pilots make mistakes, it’s part of our job as professional aviators to try to figure out why so that we won’t make the same ones.

Colgan 3407 was operated in a perfectly good aircraft that was flown into the ground by a qualified pilot who screwed up. The pilot made multiple mistakes, engaged in unprofessional behavior, and did us all a disservice by killing himself and 48 others. As the organization I’m required to support with a portion of my wages (or, at least, did before I was furloughed), I think you could do a lot better representing my interests and those of my colleagues.

Instead of rationally addressing the incident in question, you’ve chosen to blindly support your members and attempt to spread blame. The e-mail I just received stated, “During its discussions, the Board identified the need to improve training, develop experience, improve cockpit displays, enhance oversight, and provide better weather information to crews.” While better training or more experience certainly might have helped, you well know that improved cockpit displays, enhanced oversight or better weather information would not have done anything to prevent this crash.

As a professional aviator, I am deeply disappointed by ALPA’s decision to blindly and emphatically stand by its members who make mistakes as though they are infallible. I am not in any way helped by an organization that is completely unable to face reality. I will not be prevented from stalling an aircraft, or failing to recover an aircraft from a stall, by better weather information. I will not be more likely to secure employment as a result of ALPA’s disingenuous rhetoric, nor will I be better able to assure others of the safety of the industry. When ALPA speaks disingenuously, we all suffer.

How am I able to point to the wisdom and reason of ALPA when they’re pressuring the FAA for more sensible duty regulations or better working conditions if they’ve also spouted utter nonsense in the past? To quote A.P. Herbert, “It is like the thirteenth stroke of a crazy clock, which not only is itself discredited but casts a shade of doubt over all previous assertions.” ALPA has the potential to do a lot of good for its members, and I’d like to see it focusing on doing such good. The NTSB is right: Colgan 3407 crashed as a result of pilot error. There are surely lessons to be learned from Colgan 3407, and I want to learn them so that ALPA doesn’t have to waste time defending my stupidity some time in the future.

There comes a moment.

1 February 2010 at 9:14 pm
by Berck

A precise point in time when I decide to do something. After that, it’s all downhill momentum.

I thought I was at that point last week, but I waited a few days, and I didn’t seem to be rolling downhill, so I figured I was mistaken and I could talk myself out of it. And I mostly managed, until today after I filed my taxes, when I found myself rolling downhill after all. So where was that precise point in time, anyway? Does it really exist, or do I just think it does?

Maybe it’s not so precise. Maybe I could take the derivative of the function in retrospect and figure out where the slope started downward, but while I’m in it it looks more like pedaling uphill and seeing if I have enough momentum to carry me over the crest.

I’m still not sure I do, but it sure feels downhill now. I’ll know more this weekend.