AviatorCast Episode 9: Hangar Talk w/ Jason Sokoloff: Aviation Safety | NTSB | Aeronautical Decision Making | Accident Investigation


Today’s Flight Plan

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be an investigator on the scene of an aviation accident? Our guest today, Jason Sokoloff, has done just that. He shares some humbling experiences and tragedies with us.

Jason has a unique perspective on several accidents, including a disorientation crash in the Florida Keys at night over the ocean, grandparents flying into embedded thunderstorms, and Asiana 214 among other thoughts.

We also discuss briefly the oddities behind the MH370 disappearance. Although our thoughts are few because there are few facts, we still touch on what is currently known. This is a wild story that we are following closely.

Please feel free to leave questions for Jason. Big thanks for him coming on the show!


Jason Sokoloff

Huge thanks, again, to Jason. If you want to speak with Jason, feel free to leave comments here. He is also our instructor on our popular 737 LineWork. Find out more information about that here.


Big thanks to Atrasolis for providing the great music for our podcast. Please check them out on their Facebook Page or SoundCloud and get the music you’ve heard for free.


Major thanks to the amazing Angle of Attack Crew for all their hard work over the years. Our team works incredibly hard, and they’re very passionate about what they do.

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This is AviatorCast episode 9. Let’s fly a tank!
Calling all aviators, pilots and aviation lovers, welcome to AviatorCast, where we close the gap between real aviation and flight simulation. Climb aboard, buckle up and prepare for takeoff. Here’s your host, Chris Palmer.
Chris: Welcome, welcome, welcome aviators. You’ve landed at AviatorCast. My name is Chris Palmer. I’m an aviation-loving monster. You point out an aircraft, chances are I know far too much information about it, attesting to my flying nerdery. I’m also an aviator, flight simmer, avid reader of aviation material, and I also love to write and educate other aspirants and improving pilots. I’m the founder and owner of Angle of Attack, a flight simulation training company which is bringing you this podcast today. AviatorCast is a weekly podcast where we talk about the spirit of the aviator. We believe flying is an art form, one that we have to continually practice and master. This mastery is gained through a focus on continual learning, human factors, humility and a commitment to excellence. On each episode of AviatorCast, we will discuss real flight training and flight simulation topics. Our desire and mission is not only to create awesome aviators, but also bridge the gap between real aviation and flight simulation. Show notes, transcript, community discussion, and links for this episode can be found by simply going to AviatorCast.com.
So welcome to this, the ninth episode of AviatorCast. I must say that this week, I’m actually really excited to be here which isn’t necessarily something new but I’m just really excited for this episode. I felt like in our last episode with Nick Collett, things went really well and it really inspired me to do better and be better and take the next step forward and continue on my journey as an aviator and I hope for you, it did a bit of the same. Today, we have a very worthy guest with Jason Sokoloff. Jason is a guy that I have been close for a while now. He’s a dear friend, personal friend, but also Jason works with us here at Angle of Attack and has a very interesting background working with the NTSB and just has a different perspective on aviation safety, and I really love what he has to offer, just a very unique perspective, so Jason is a top notch guy and I can’t wait to get into this interview with him.
Before we do that, I want to give the community an opportunity to have their voice, so here it is. We have a review from iTunes from Germany actually. This guy’s username is fatroom. I thought that was pretty funny username. So he says “Nice stories about aircrafts,” again this is from Germany, “this podcast is really good source of information for simmers and wannabe pilots. If the word air means anything exciting for you, you should definitely give a try to this one.” So, thank you very much fatroom. I wished I knew your real name so I didn’t have to use that username, but I really appreciate your review. So as mentioned before in the opening of this AviatorCast episode, this is a flight simulation and a real flight training podcast. We want to bridge the gap between these two parts of our wonderful aviation industry and find out what we can learn from each other and do a better job in our respective spheres of gaining information from the real world for what we’re doing in flight simulation, or rather in the real world, using flight simulation to your greater extent to be safer and more competent pilots, and confident I guess too.
So I’m really excited for this episode with Jason. Again, Jason is a top notch guy and I really hope you guys enjoy this interview, so let’s get right into it.
Now, a special hangar talk segment…
Chris: Alright everybody, we have a very special guest with us today. We have Jason Sokoloff with us. How you doing Jason?
Jason: I’m doing just fantastic Chris. How are you?
Chris: Awesome. I’m doing great too. Really excited for this one because you’re a big safety guy and it seems like that’s a topic that we touch on a lot here on AviatorCast, so it will be really interesting to get into this with you because you have quite a background in this area. So before we get into that, just a quick introduction of Jason. Jason actually works with Angle of Attack. He’s part of our team. He primarily works on the 737 training, so he’s a 737 instructor and teaches our pilots what is called line work is kind of the advanced part of our 737 training. Jason goes through a lot of the failures and the kind of the consequences that go along with that, and also what it’s like to fly a 737 as a line pilot, which is why we called it line work. Now, we want to get this simulator stuff mostly out of the way. Jason and I are both very passionate about simulation. We believe it can assist us in being better aviators and we’ll touch on that as we go throughout this conversation, but Jason and I both agreed that there’s so much great discussion that we’re going to be having in this particular episode. We’re not going to focus too much on simulation in a chunk, but we’ll rather refer to it as we go along. Mostly, what we’re going to be talking about is aviation safety.
Jason, with all that said, with that brief introduction, tell us a little bit about, even the basics of how you got into aviation, how you fell in love with it as a child, up through your education, what you ended up studying and where, and what career path that took you on in aviation. Why don’t you just kind of take the floor and do that for us.
Jason: Okay, no problem. Aviation really ran in my blood a long time since I was, probably about 4, I’ll never forget it. My first flight I ever took was I was four years old and it was snowing like a banshee. It was in LaGuardia, New York and it was old Diesel-9, DC-9 US Air. I’ll never forget, I walked to the cockpit and right there I was just looking at all the dials and the gauges, probably like every single one of us, and I went “Man this what I want to do. This is awesome.” So there was, the love affair started. Since I was four years old, that was drive. I got my pilot’s license in 1998, so when I was about 18, I was licensed and I started flying them. Aviation safety was one of those things I really, really started to get interested in when I was about 14, probably like junior high, getting into high school age.
Chris: Kind of an odd thing to get into as a teenager. Maybe not like it is these days where kids are playing Xbox and things but getting into aviation safety, I definitely don’t hear that at least when you’re talking about teen years.
Jason: No. I think the typical teenager is doing a lot of stupid stuff, which I’ve done, but I always have the aviation drive behind me to keep me kind of out of trouble. When my friends are going to parties, I never went, because I was just like “I’m not doing that. I’m not sacrificing my career potentially for something stupid,” and that was some stupid part anyway. But when I went to college in Embry-Riddle, graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and got instrument-rated there. I went into aviation safety and that have an aviation safety program at Riddle where you learn how to be an aircrash investigator. I loved it. It was a lot of fun.
Chris: Now, you said you started off earlier when we’re talking, in the professional pilot program right, and then you switched over to aviation safety.
Jason: Yeah, but halfway through I went… I was in the professional pilot program but halfway through it, I said I wanted to go into safety because I had a safety program and I kind of found out a little about it and become this air crash investigatory. Actually, Greg Fife, I don’t know if you know who that is. He’s an icon when it comes to safety, he’s an NTSB investigator, IIC. He’s on Air Crash Investigation if you’ve ever seen that show. He’s one of the guys that’s on that… he’s kind of my mentor and he graduated at Riddle and he and I stayed in contact, a pretty good guy, and that’s why I wanted to go into that just because I loved it. I went into that program and it taught me a lot. I learned a lot, and then I went into the NTSB as I did my internship with them, it’s before you graduate, you do an internship, and learned a lot working for the government, a lot of good things, but not so good things. So that’s kind of in a nutshell where my background is.
Chris: So you actually, you said earlier when we were talking that you actually did your internship with the NTSB, right? How long did you spend in that capacity?
Jason: Probably about a semester, six months or something. Probably a little bit over that as well, so I just did like, the end of the semester to the beginning of the next. It was, again, you learned a lot. In the beginning you think “Oh man, it’s going to be a glorious.” You kind of like think like CSI stuff, and then when you walk in the doors and you figure out what it really is about, it slaps you right between the eyes because it’s not that. Most of NTSB people, they’re behind a desk and all you’re doing is you’re going through stacks and stacks of documents of an air crash. So basically, the layout is there is an IIC or an investigator in charge is on-call for two weeks. Now within those two weeks, any fatals, you have to go and respond to. So any fatal crashes, you might get zero for those two weeks, you might get 10. So it all depends on how those two weeks are. Weather has a lot to do with it as well.
In the span of those two weeks, you can literally have 30 accidents pile up and every accident you have to investigate, so that’s the charge from the government. The government charges the NTSB to investigate every single aviation accident. The FAA is a liaison, so the FAA responds to all of the accidents, the NTSB does not. A lot of people don’t know that. They just kind of like “Okay the NTSB is there all the time.” No, not all the time. Just on fatals, usually. The FAA is there all the time. And so what the FAA will do is they’ll funnel all their documents, paperwork and all that stuff to the NTSB which is in charge of the crash.
Chris: So obviously, there’s a lot of communication going on there between those agencies.
Jason: Yes. There’s a ton. So the FAA sends their own investigator and they have to report to us.
Chris: Gocha. It’s interesting because I’ve learned just recently that the FAA will reach out to just trustworthy experienced aviators in the area, and they’ll say “Hey, this accident just happened. Go check it out,” sort of thing, and it seems like that’s kind of how you get into investigating accidents or incidents, it’s not necessarily accidents. As you said, if it’s fatal, then the NTSB gets involved but I just found that interesting that they kind of reach out to the experienced guys. I don’t know if you even knew that. I don’t know if it’s actually even that common but just kind of interesting…
Jason: It’s from the area related. I think if you’re in a remote area, the FAA is not going to have…. I mean they do have their agents but…
Chris: Yeah. They can’t cover everything.
Jason: Yeah, exactly.
Chris: Just not logistically possible.
Jason: Right. And they have their own people. They have their own actual investigators that come out, and they will respond, they have to respond to every crash.
Chris: Yeah.
Jason: So that’s kind of their charge. Like I say, you’re behind the desk pushing pencils. Making phone calls and trying to figure out what happened, and then if fatals, you actually go there or if it’s a big media event, then you actually have to respond to it. That’s how the NTSB works.
Chris: Yeah, exactly. For example, if a celebrity… this is kind of just something off the top of my head but if a celebrity gets involved in something even if it’s non-fatal, it seems like the NTSB or whoever is always going to get involved just because of the publicity that surround it.
Jason: Yeah, and then like what we were talking about before, there’s the DC-3 in Fort Lauderdale, went down in a residential neighborhood.
Chris: Right, and we were talking about this off-air. You don’t miss anything in the audio if you’re listening to this. We were talking about this off-air.
Jason: Right, and the big thing is there was no fatals but the media was there, it was utter chaos, and of course our field office was in Miami so it was just a quick drive, a 20-mile drive up to Fort Lauderdale and we went there. We were up pretty much all night with that one.
Chris: No kidding. So essentially, I mean, just as a quick rundown, essentially we had a Con-Air moment with this DC-3 that was overloaded, lost an engine and had to put down on a residential street right and was clipping trees, you said a mailman almost got taken out.
Jason: Yeah, it’s pretty cool. Not pretty cool but it was… everybody praised the pilot “Oh, such a great job” and he did, he did a great job avoiding houses, avoiding the male guy, he just did a terrific job putting it down but the airplane should have never been flying in the first place. That’s what the public talks about.
Chris: Well, was that in your official report?
Jason: Yeah, kind of.
Chris: I guess it’s the hot news of the day. You learned that a guy did awesome landing the plane and you don’t go look at the investigative report months later.
Jason: Yeah, that’s just it. It was pretty bad maintenance on that airplane to begin with. Just a couple of poor aeronautical decision-making on that accident. I don’t want to really to talk about that one too much because it’s…
Chris: Yeah, we have some other great example that we’re going to talk about.
Jason: Yeah, that’s a bonehead move.
Chris: Alright, so now Jason and I, we’re going to go through several of these accidents that he’s not only been a part of but also things that are kind of recent and at the forefront of the news, and things that… just bring up interesting points that Jason himself wanted to talk about that he feels are current aviation issues today. Jason, before we get into kind of these accidents that you’ve chosen, this is the big question of the day at this point in time in history. We are currently waiting to see what has happened to Malaysia Flight 370. What is your take? This is such a mystery. We just don’t even know what’s going on but what is your take so far?
Jason: It doesn’t make any sense. It’s all speculation, but they’re saying the airplane is not where it should’ve been. They’re saying it’s on the west coast and now it’s on the east coast. It’s flying low which the military radar got pings on that, and that’s what we know now, so obviously that’s not good. That usually tells us that there is definitely foul play. There is no mayday call, there is no debris field, we haven’t found the airplane. This is crazy theory but in the 80s, a 727 went missing and it would turn up in Costa Rica on blocks about 15 years later.
Chris: Really?
Jason: Oh yeah. They stripped it, they put it on blocks, and nobody knew where it went.
Chris: I don’t understand. So, was that one full of passengers?
Jason: No, that was a cargo.
Chris: Okay, that makes a little more sense.
Jason: It was actually used for running drugs, so drug cartels did that. But, it’s kind of hard to hide a 777. You can’t really do that. That could be something, who knows but we just don’t know. If they’re going to look in the right spot…. Obviously to me it sounds like foul play, something is going on. I know that there are reports that the pilots let in a couple of women in 2011 and they had a good ol’ time up there just chatting away, and you’re up and Malaysia, probably the rules are much lax definitely than they are in the United States but, at this point, we don’t know. I mean, it’s like you said, it’s an absolute, it boggles our mind. We just go “what the heck?”
Chris: Yeah, it really doesn’t make any sense, because initially, I mean, they said it dropped off radar and so all of us pilot types are thinking there’s some sort of in-flight disintegration or explosion because they would still pick up some data or they’d still be able to make an emergency radio call but none of that has happened. We don’t have any communication from the crew. As far as what’s public right now, we have no information on where the aircraft really went other than what’s come out today which says it actually didn’t go down or anything or didn’t just simply disappear, but they had tracked the flight back across into the Malaysia Straits, I’m not sure exactly what it’s called, or the Malaya Straits or something like that. But really odd. Everything about it is odd. I don’t know where the story is going but I think it’s safe to say that it’s definitely going to be one that we remember. We always remember Malaysia Flight 370 regardless of what happens at this point. It’s that odd.
Jason: Yeah, it really is, and I hope the airplane is parked on a ramp somewhere in Africa. You hope the people are okay, you hope it’s not a crash but I mean, for an airplane to be that far off course. It wasn’t even in the direction of the airport. Give me a break, I mean obviously it’s foul play. You can put two and two together. It’s like “Okay, that doesn’t make any sense.”
Chris: I was talking to someone today, was talking about a full electrical failure and smoke in the cockpit but my point with that was is if it’s full electrical failure and there’s smoke in the cockpit and they actually flew the airplane back over the straits, they would be able to see somehow because they flew that far, and I would imagine once they get to land, then they would to try use dead reckoning or pilotage to get back to the origin airport at least. They wouldn’t just continue out at sea. There’s a lot of things that have been ruled out, like you said like at this point just looks like foul play which is unfortunate. We don’t want to say the big T word yet but we just don’t know. It’s really odd.
Jason: It’s not consistent with a malfunction. Sometimes, I would hear the public say “There was no radio contact.” Well sometimes there isn’t depending on how busy the crew is up there taking care of it. Obviously, you aviate, navigate, and communicate, that’s the last thing you do, but you’re at 35,000 feet, you have time to communicate after you get… depending on what the failure is.
Chris: Right. Yeah, they had plenty of time.
Jason: The thing is, it just doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make any sense to me.
Chris: Something’s going on.
Jason: Something’s amiss.
Chris: I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. Maybe on our next show together, we can talk about what has transpired because hopefully within the next several hours, praying that within the next several hours we’ll found out what’s going on, or the family members will find out what’s going on. For us, it’s this big… we have all this anticipation behind it because we want to know as pilots how to increase safety in our own cockpits, in our own flight decks and even for your own simulators, but for the people that are having to live with this on a very personal where they have family members that were or are on board in this aircraft and don’t know what’s going on, that’s what you really want to see solved right now more than anything else. It will just be interesting to see what kind of transpires here.
Jason: And we’ll know. I mean, time will tell.
Chris: Yeah. They’ll find out somehow hopefully. If not, again, it will go down in infamy. It will be the flight that was lost right? That we never found, which just doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t see it happening but at this point, you can’t rule anything out. It’s just that crazy.
Jason: Definitely a mystery.
Chris: Okay, so let’s put that aside because there is so much that we just don’t know, and we’re going to get into several accidents that you actually were able to be on scene at which is an interesting perspective that we don’t get to hear that often, and then we have another accident that you weren’t on seen at but brings up an interesting conversation. Why don’t we start out kind of with… I think these couple of flights here are kind of the same thing if I’m not mistaken, same accident cause, and that is VMC into IMC or essentially disorientation, is that right?
Jason: Correct, yeah. We’re talking about general aviation pilots right?
Chris: Right, and we’re assuming that if you’re at the professional level, you’ve got your stuff together and you can handle it and nothing happens, especially VMC into IMC. I’ve been myself reading a lot about this recently right. This VMC into IMC problem and essentially what that is if you don’t know what that means folks is it’s visual meteorological conditions into instrument meteorological conditions. It’s essentially flying from an area where you’re completely visual, you can see the horizon, you can see everything in front of you even if that’s at night, and you fly into instrument conditions or in the clouds where you cannot see and then you are relying on your instruments. And the reason why this is such a big killer, the number one killer of general aviation pilots, is because of what’s called disorientation or essentially the body lying to the pilot telling the pilot you’re turning or you’re climbing or you’re descending, confusing the pilot with all of the bodily senses into thinking he’s doing one thing when all actuality he’s doing another and the pilot then don’t really on the instruments or don’t even have the training to rely on the instruments, and end up ripping off wings, falling out the bottom of clouds, lots of different things that happen from that point on. Obviously there are circumstances where people have training enough to do a complete 180 and just get out of it but a lot of pilots persist on moving forward or it happens so slowly that they kind of just get into a trap and can’t get out essentially. So, that’s what these flights have to do with, and you know these particular flights more than I do. I don’t know any particular data actually about these accidents. These are just a couple of accidents out of many that happen each year really. This is the number one killer, so this happens still every year in general aviation here in the United States, and I’m sure it’s a similar story for other countries, this particular problem. Did I sum that up correctly? Would you add anything there?
Jason: No, I think it’s perfect, what you’ve said. I think that any pilot really needs to understand the danger with spatial disorientation. There’s only one way of really doing that and that’s to actually go up with a certified flight instructor. I’ll never forget this and this is just a side note but my flight instructor, when I was doing my flight training for my instrument, he took me up over the ocean in the Atlantic Ocean at night and he said to close your eyes. He said to let me closed my heads and tilted my head to the left about 30 degrees. And so he rolled the airplane. You feel the initial roll, and the airplane is about… it’s just a slight bank and you can feel that initially. About two minutes goes by and you don’t feel anything else. You don’t feel like you’re in a turn. You’re not accelerating, you’re not doing anything. Then all of a sudden, you hear the engine increase, and you feel something like a little bit of gravity, a little G-force pushing you down, and he says “Okay, I want you to look up.” And so you open your eyes and look up and as you look up, I’ll never forget this. The airplane was doing a full nose straight up, so the attitude went straight up, so we’re in a complete straight climb. So what’s the instinct of the pilot?
Chris: Push forward.
Jason: Exactly. So the first thing I do is I went to shove the yoke down. And at the same time, I pushed the throttle. I was going to push throttle, and my flight instructor said, he started yelling “Look at your instruments! Look at your instruments! Look at your instruments!” so I stopped, and I was looking at the attitude indicator airspeed, attitude airspeed, altitude, and I went “Holy crap, we’re straightening up.” But my body felt like it was going straight in the air with the power it was on. So I sat on my hands and he said “I just want you to sit on your hands and fly with your feet.” So I sat on my hands, I decreased the power. That’s the scary about the spatial disorientation. It will throw you for a complete loop like I thought I was doing. I thought we were going into a complete straight up loop. It was wild. So if you ever have that chance, do it. Because then when you do get in a situation, if you ever get into a situation of VMC into IMC, you’re going to trust the instruments.
I’ll just talk about these two crashes real quick. They are classic you said. It’s probably the biggest killer in GA aviation accidents.
Chris: Before we get into that, one point that I wanted to make that I didn’t make was, and you said it perfectly. You didn’t fall into this trap that I hear a lot of people say. Instrument meteorological conditions or IMC is not the killer here. That’s not the killer. People are flying in clouds all the time. The difference is they know how to fly in the clouds. Disorientation is the killer. Getting that feeling and losing control of your mind really and not acting accordingly. I want to differentiate that for the listeners, that it’s not the clouds or the conditions that are the killer, it’s really the pilot himself and his lack of preparation that’s the killer. Because these things can be what’s called trained out. All pilots at one time or another, they go through disorientation. They learn what it feels like to get the turns when they’re getting their instrument ratings and they learn to ignore it, and they learn to minimize their head movements and minimize what they do in those conditions. You don’t drop your pen on the floor and have to bend down and sit back up and get all loopy and crazy, that’s why pilots have a pen holder in their shirts and why they have Velcro off and on their pens. Simple things like that matter a lot. And even in how they design the cockpits, it’s that way for a reason. A lot of cars. You see a lot of cars, they have the instrumentation in the middle and you could even argue hey, why not just have one set of instrumentation, this is kind of a silly argument, but why not have one set of instrumentation for both pilots. They can both read off the middle instruments and then you can have different other stuff in the side switches or whatever else that those pilots are responsible for, and the reason is because pilots need to be facing straight forward. They don’t need to be looking up or down often. Everything the way the design of the cockpit should be heads forward and very minimal time looking down or looking up. I just want to add that part up too that I guess that the design matters, that there is a difference between the conditions and disorientation in the killers. Anyway, so go ahead. So we have this first accident in the Florida Keys and I’m going to let you take it from here. I’m not going to interrupt you too much because I know that this is a bit of a personal story too.
Jason: Yeah, I mean, unless if you have question, chime in.
Chris: Yeah, sure, yeah, I will.
Jason: So I mean, I want to dovetail to this what you said Chris. This is not just our VFR pilots. This is actually an instrument-rated pilot that lost it in The Keys. She had about maybe 200 hours instrument time logged, so not a low timer but it’s a lot of hours under the instruments. By no means a rookie. She had about 900 total, 200 of that was instrument conditions. This was at night. She had taken off. By the way, if you know the person, I don’t want to… we’re just about teaching. Nothing more.
Chris: Right. There’s something to learn from this so that future pilots themselves can be safe. We’re not trying to ostracize or demonize anybody. It’s just about learning something from this situation right?
Jason: Correct. So in this particular case, I’ll just reverse it. We got a phone call from the NTSB. We were sitting at our desks and we got a call, it’s an airplane. We had four bodies washed up on Key West. So that’s never a good thing when four bodies wash up in Key West, and then there’s an ELT going off. They had it on radar. Miami Center I believe had it on radar, something like Miami Approach, I don’t know which one it was, but something we had radar, so we went down to… first trip was down to the Traycon in Miami to pick up the transcripts. We did that then we drove down to The Keys and we hired a salvage crew to pull the airplane up. It was a Cessna 172, it was obviously fully loaded. We pulled the airplane up and the diver comes up and throws this pocketbook on the deck. Immediately I opened it up, try to ID the person in the cockpit. We knew it was female pilot by the FBO there. I pulled her ID out and it says Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and I looked at the picture, and it’s my friend’s girlfriend. That’s personal. It wasn’t a very comfortable phone call. I think he already knew that she went down but I don’t think he knew I was on that particular accident. But anyway, it was one of those “Okay, now this is personal but we got to figure this out.”
We bring the airplane up and all indications were, I had power on the airplane, telltale signs of the prop and stuff, you could see that the way it bends it will have power. So we knew it wasn’t an engine malfunction or anything like that. It turns out that the probable cause, she was taking off at night in Florida Keys and if you’ve ever flown out of that airport at night, you know one thing. You’re point at the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico. So meteor over ocean, that’s it. There is no visual reference. And by the way, if you’ve ever flown at night over the ocean and you see a boat, is that a boat or is that a star? You don’t know.
Chris: Yeah, no kidding. It gets really weird.
Jason: It’s very strange to fly at night. Chris and I were talking about this off air but I really think, every pilot needs to get need night experience but there should be almost a restriction of VFR in that. I mean, and I don’t want to say overpopulated areas because it’s a little different. You got lights. But when you’re flying over the ocean, that’s IMC. It’s not IMC but it’s instrument conditions. You can’t see horizon, so you’re totally dependent on your instruments. She got into a little bit of spatial disorientation and didn’t trust her instrumentation. All the instruments checked out, so you go through the whole process of elimination, flight controls. You’re looking at continuity of all the flight controls, they worked. The engine was developing power at the time of the impact. The instruments were good. That leads us to spatial disorientation. It’s a sad thing knowing a 200-hour instrument-rated pilot can actually lose it. I’m sure you’ve experienced this Chris and I’ve experienced that… we’re instrument-rate pilots, when you transition from VFR into the clouds and you’re still looking outside, you got a problem.
Chris: You know, I have actually a very similar experience to this, and I’ve only experienced this once. I have a good amount of instrument time. I was lucky enough to be in a position where I just did a lot of cross-countries and we went through weather, that’s what we did. I was at one time in Southern Utah and we took off from an uncontrolled airport, very little traffic at this airport, the type of airport where you basically are the only airplane tied down there. There’s not an FBO. There’s not a fuel there, nothing. Small town just north of Lake Powell, I can’t remember the name exactly. Landed there, did some things. Landed there in the daytime or dusk time and then did some things and went and flew out at night. Now, in the US, you don’t have to have an instrument rating to fly at night. You don’t even have to have an IFR flight plan. So we ended up taking off from this runway. The runway did have lights. What I remember is, it didn’t have centerline lights, but I remember the landing light dipping away so I couldn’t see any more runway texture. It was complete pitch black. Zero moon. I wasn’t… I didn’t have good enough night vision yet to see the stars and everything was just completely black. And the air was extremely still too. And so I had this feeling that I was just floating in mid-air and I had zero visual reference outside of the cockpit with terrain in front of me. I knew that there was terrain in front of me, having flown in there earlier and it being hot at that time because this was summertime. The climb performance wasn’t as good as it could’ve been. I just remember looking out my right hand window and executing an instrument turn essentially and putting my wing tip on the airport and getting some altitude before I headed northbound, I was going back to Salt Lake. So I can definitely attest to night time being, honestly, in a lot situations, worse than the clouds because there was just zero visual reference and I guess it’s black and white right, so you’re white in the clouds, you’re black at night. It’s really just weird. Both are weird in their own ways but this was something that was just very strange to me. I can only imagine what that situation would be like for her and for, I don’t know if there are any other pilots on board but the transition is weird because you expect it to work out and it just kinds of doesn’t and suddenly, you are in a situation where you have to have a scan now and you don’t have the time to really get into your scan which can take several seconds.
Now, I don’t know if you can verify this with me Jason but I heard that in the Caribbean which isn’t far from the keys obviously, that you actually can’t fly VFR at night. I want to say you can’t even fly IFR at night but I don’t want to go that far. Do you know the rules down there on that or anything like that?
Jason: I don’t. I don’t know. I’d have to do some research on that.
Chris: Okay. Well, why don’t you finish the story. Maybe, while you’re doing that, I’ll try and look it up and see what the rules are. Yeah, finish that up. I don’t want to interrupt this too much more with my own personal experience as I want to hear kind of what it gets determined.
Jason: Basically with that one, we just took… it’s a simple, it’s the spatial disorientation that got her. It sucks because having been in that situation, your first instinct is “Oh crap, correct the airplane,” and you really need to be, like you said, you have to be on the gauges. You have to trust them. You sit on your hands. If you’re ever feeling like that, the airplane is doing something stupid, sit on your hands. Just sit on your hands and look at your gauges, start scanning. The other one I’ll talk about is the same kind of thing. It was VMC in IMC. This was grandparents with a 10-year-old granddaughter in the back of the airplane, and I believe they were flying a Bonanza to tell you the truth.
Chris: Which is what I flew, that’s why Jason poked that one in there.
Jason: V-tail Bonanzas, they’re doctor and lawyer…
Chris: Okay. I had a lot of time in the V-tail. It was very enjoyable.
Jason: Those are widow-makers. We call the V-tail the widow-maker. Anyway, we get a call. These people are going from Tennessee to somewhere in Florida, I don’t where they were going. I believe it was like somewhere out in Fort Lauderdale, and they got into a classic Florida thunderstorm at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Non-instrument rate pilot, goes right through the clouds, comes out in a complete stall, spin situation. You can tell by the wreckage on the ground. You could tell how an airplane hits the ground on how and where kind of the flight dynamics at impact. Smoking hole means he had no control over it nosedown, boom. It hits, huge crater and a fan debris pattern. That means it’s pretty much nosedown right into the ground. And this one wasn’t. This one was flat, just kind of wing-tipped break and like that with gears, not the gear, but the airplane was broken in a few spots but pretty much intact. You can pretty much tell it was low speed impact but straight down. Like I was telling you, the fatalities that really bother me are the kids, the children, because they’re innocent and that’s what really bugs me about, responding to those crashes and I don’t want to get too morbid about it but again, here you’ve got a pilot whose got more than one life in the airplane and screws up, and kills his wife and kills his 10-year-old granddaughter. And that’s what bugs me the most about crashes. By all means, if you’re going to kill yourself, kill yourself but don’t take people with you.
Chris: Right.
Jason: And that’s what really bugs me about these crashes, where it’s like, adults don’t bother me but when we respond to fatals and you see an adult, that’s fine. It’s the kids that bug me because you just can’t get them out of your mind. It’s like what do you do? But anyway, that’s why I’m passionate about safety. We want to save lives. That’s ultimately what I want to do. Somebody who is listening to this podcast and they’re just starting to fly, learn something. Just take one takeaway from this podcast, that would be just excellent. That points to aeronautical decision-making. If the weather is crappy and you’re not an instrument-rated pilot, don’t scud run. Don’t do it. It’s not worth the stupid flight. It’s just not worth it. With this experience with the NTSB, I’m probably much more passionate than I was because you see that stuff.
Chris: Yeah, I mean, when you were talking about that, the question that kept going through my head was “Okay, well, we have this situation, this happened. Now what?” Because when I hear these accidents, I do not separate myself from the grandpa right? I do not separate myself from the girl that took off or woman that took off from The Keys. I am that pilot. I am capable of doing what that person did unless I learn something. Does that make sense? So I have to learn something from this situation. I have to become a better pilot. I have to continue to learn not only by example through these accidents but I have to be studying continually. I have to be actually practicing flight skill practically my hands on the controls. All of these different things, because it’s a solemn responsibility to have passengers on board. At the end of the day, yeah, we can go up. We can pilot ourselves, we can do something stupid but if that’s how you approach your life, that’s not how I approach my life but if you’re so trivial about your life that you’d go up and do stupid things then go for it. But it’s so much more when we’re talking about the passengers and people having these problems.
I was reading another accident report just a couple of weeks ago. It was in the book The Killing Zone and it was in this section, this is just crazy. This just shows just how crazy right. These are the situation you can go back and forth and say “These pilots may be just painted themselves in the corner. It’s hard to say that I couldn’t be in that position but this particular example is crazy. This was in the intoxication section or the drug section, what would be considered flying while intoxicated sort of thing. This pilot, they got and get completely plastered at the bar. He has five buddies with him something like that. Four buddies agree to go flying with them. They take a couple six-packs with them and they fly into IMC. It’s IMC at the airport. They take off and they stall after takeoff and did a right hand turn to the clouds and the one guy that stayed behind, the one guy that said “No, I’m not going to go,” got to witness all these and reported most of the information that they learned about this. I mean, can you even imagine? One guy piles in a bunch of other guys into the airplane, they go up and it’s over. It’s just unbelievable. I don’t know if you could draw some extreme parallel to that and say “How am I as a pilot drunk figuratively today and what am I doing that’s stupid today that will put my passengers in danger?” Those are just questions that we have to continually ask ourselves and we have to continually approach this with solemnity and say “I’m responsible for these passengers. I’m responsible for myself. I have a family. I want to survive.” And that starts long before the engine starts on your flight. That starts with the knowledge that you’re gaining. That starts with continual learning that goes on and on with these accident investigations. It’s one of those subjects and it’s no wonder that you originally got so excited about it as a teenager. It’s one of those subjects that really remain interesting forever. It doesn’t seem like it gets old. Even though a lot of it is the same type of accident over and over and over again, even that part of it fascinating because it seems like there’s always a new twist on it. There’s always that thought “this pilot obviously knew that this was an issue in aviation. How did he get himself in this situation,” and just really interesting.
Jason: I think the other thing that plays, that drives that decision is especially in GA, it’s called “gethereitis.” I think just too many pilots are plague by that in GA aircraft, “I gotta go, I gotta go, I gotta go.” Yeah, but take a look at all the other crap that you’ve got to go into. Is the weather perfect? Does it suck? Is it marginal? All those things like you said, really, you need to weigh that stuff in. And this is how I approach all my flights as a GA pilot. I always approach the flight I was carrying 134 people and I said “Okay, as professional as possible, and if it sucked, I wouldn’t go.” I just scrap it. Obviously, when an airliner, it’s a whole different ball game. You’re expected to for a certain thing, and that really takes us just that gethereitis and even commercial pilots suffer from it. I think of a few crashes that happened.
Chris: It’s a difficult one. Especially with the pressures that are placed on pilots to say “You’ve got to be here, you’ve got to be on time,” not only by their company but by the passengers that are outside in the terminal and upset or whatever it is. You hear stories not only from the accident side but the stories from the other side where pilots are put in a situation where they essentially have to become the bad guy and say no and they have to say no many, many times before everyone around them realizes truly that they are the ones that are in control and they can either kick the pilot out of the cockpit and get someone to replace them or they can listen to his discretion and stop the flight or whatever they’re doing right? I heard this in another podcast today but there’s a lack of leadership also in aviation. You don’t often see that lack of leadership when it comes to airlines. I would say here in the States especially. We have this crew resource management thing pretty refined now, and it’s not that it can’t better, it can always be better, but there is definitely, in almost all situations, it’s very common place I’ll say to have two leaders in the cockpit ready to take over and take command of the aircraft and make good decisions and have skill to carry out those things in the cockpit. I don’t know. I just threw that little caveat in there.
Jason: No, that’s exactly right. If you think about the crashes that happen in the 80s in the United States. It depends on the culture. The captain has always been that guy, that commanding officer and they are, buy my school of thought is I’m not going to let you fly me into the ground. If you’re doing something stupid, I’m going to let you know and I don’t really care if it’s unpopular. Even ATC, I’m sure you’ve had this, ATC is trying to pin you into a corner. Maybe it’s something you don’t want to do. Maybe it’s something you’re not comfortable with. You know what, tell ATC to go pound sand, I’m not doing it. You’re not up here flying the airplane, I’m not going to do that, so no. I’ve had that countless times, flying at 2500-foot strip. What are you, you’re high. No, I’m not doing that. I don’t care what [inaudible-00:54:08] me in. Sorry, you have to do your job.
Chris: Do you remember that… this is right when live ATC came out but that live ATC recording where the American Airlines pilots, to their benefit, I mean this is definitely a good thing. They essentially had minimum fuel because they were trying to get into New York I think it was, and they were out of fuel. I mean, they had tried too many times on the approaches, winds were heavy, and they essentially said “We’re declaring an emergency. We have minimum fuel. We are going to this runway sort of thing.” And the controller came back, said “Okay, fly heading blah, blah, blah.” The pilot comes back and says “No, I’m declaring an emergency. Get everyone out of the way. I’m landing on runway blah, blah, blah, this is an emergency.” Like basically just deal with it. And it was one of the best examples I’ve heard of just telling it how it is and this is what I’m going to do, because he was obviously in a situation he was not comfortable with. He felt like his airplane could not do around do round. It couldn’t go around or try again. It couldn’t even go and do a pattern sort of thing. They had to do basically do a low circling approach and get down, so yeah. Never let ATC paint you in the corner. All that said, ATC is there also, they also benefit from doing things safely and they’re usually always there to help. I’ve had very few situations where they were pretty idiotic, but I’ve been an idiot too.
Jason: I’m not saying ATC. It could be ATC, it could be a passenger, whatever. Just don’t let them do something you’re not comfortable doing. I don’t care who it is or what it is. You just don’t do that. And then, did you want to go into Asiana 214 a little bit or no?
Chris: Yeah, let’s finish up with that. We’ll get that about 10 minutes because it’s really simple at the end of the day, but yeah, why don’t we start off with that? I’ll just give a summary of it and then let you get into that or rather just define what it is or when it happened. So, late last summer right, being summer 2013, Asiana Flight 2014 origination from Seoul, is that correct?
Jason: I think so.
Chris: They flew to San Francisco and they crashed into the start of the runway, and I’ll just leave it at that and I’ll let you kind of take everyone else kind of through the sequence and what you think from your perspective is the issue here. It’s pretty clear but there are definitely different levels of things that we can learn from this. You’ve already mentioned one which is cultural based and then there’s another one that you’re going to mention too, so go ahead with that.
Jason: Right. So we all know this one and Chris and I had a chat about it right after it happened and I’m very quick to just jump on the pilots and Chris will know that like “Man, you’re attacking the pilots.” All the time I attack them because I mean, at the board, that’s what happens.
Chris: The pilots are guilty until proven innocent right?
Jason: That’s pretty much right.
Chris: That’s the NTSB motto.
Jason: Very much. I can’t tell you how many accidents we’ve investigated. It’s always the pilot’s fault. I mean, not all the time but sometimes. I mean, I’ve had a guy fall asleep flying a helicopter. I couldn’t even get into that, but the Asiana crash, it just kills me that a modern-day airliner piloted by a “trained crew” can slam the airplane into the side of a seawall in perfect conditions, a perfectly good airplane. Another CFIT accident. Controlled flight into terrain. I thought we were done with this. Apparently not. And what kills me is this is Aviation 101. It’s simple. Yes, granted flying without a visual reference to the runway, that’s a bare. I want you guys, sim pilots, I want you to fire up your simulator, fly that exact approach, don’t use any ILS, don’t use anything like that, and see how you do. It’s tough. It’s tough because you don’t have that visual reference, but it’s doable. You shouldn’t be crashing the airplane. That’s Aviation 101. And the problem that I have with it is when you see your VRef which is your landing speed and you see that speed drop, you’ve got to do something. You can’t just sit there and go “Why is my air speed dropping?” You have to react. These two were Airbus pilots. They were trained Airbus pilots and it’s very complicated, the airbus, their autothrottle does not move like a Boeing.
Chris: Very different systems. Almost different symptoms on an annoying level on purpose. I don’t know if they’re trying to avoid trademark issues or copyright issues with their different types of… it’s ridiculous man. I wish that they could both come together. They could both call it an NCP. They can both call it an FMC. Just get on some level of normalcy here, but you know, they boy differentiate, that’s fine. And from flight characteristics and how the automation works, both are very, very different. Essentially, if I can just define this quickly. Airbus wants to do everything for the pilots, and Boeing is still of the mind that you should have, or be able to intervene at any time. That’s how I define the two.
Jason: Yeah. So there’s the two school of thoughts. They’ve got these Airbus pilots flying a Boeing…
Chris: Both great aircrafts. Let’s put that out there. Obviously both great safety records. This isn’t an Airbus versus Boeing conversation. We probably will never have that in this podcast so don’t look forward to it.
Jason: It’s just a different of two school of thoughts, that’s what that is. So my understanding is that they kick off the autothrottle, but they didn’t think they kicked off. One pilot didn’t say it to the other pilot. Whatever the case, the man-machine interface, there’s some holes there. We call that human factors, that man-machine interface, but at the end of the day, you’ve got a perfectly good airplane slamming into the side of a runway when that should never happen because it’s simply stick and rudder.
Chris: At a very low airspeed.
Jason: Yeah. It just doesn’t make sense. And the 777, one thing about that airplane, it’s all fan. I mean, that whole airplane is fan. All you have to do is tap the throttles even a quarter of an inch and it’s going freaking Mach-12 because it’s such a big, these big engines are huge on that thing. So literally, and that’s what baffles me. It’s like okay, it’s so simple, it’s just stupid. Because you just go “Are you kidding me? Really dude? How did you do that?” What I really want to touch on is that automation is not the answer. At the end of the day, it’s stick and rudder skills, and we’re losing a lot of skill because of automation. Now, you get into a modern airliner. It’s gear up, flaps up sports page. I mean, seriously, that’s how it is, it’s 400 feet, it’s gear up, flaps up, sports… hello, where are your skills going? And that’s why like when I do line work, I really try to force that issue of fly the airplane for crying out. I just fly it.
Chris: Especially since it’s a simulator. There’s a lot of company policy and SOPs that will require you to do certain things with the autopilot every so often, but if it’s a simulator, use it for what it’s good at which is basically doing anything you want and things you wouldn’t usually do right? Hand flying is one of those things. I do agree so far with what you said about automation in that it is all about stick and rudder skills and that people are relying on automation too much. Now, from the perspective of a single pilot, single engine IFR which is what I have generally done, automation for me has been really great because it helps me stay ahead of the aircraft, and it helps me manage my flights better. Now, does that mean that I’m not honing my stick and rudder skills and still using those skills? Perhaps it’s a little different when we’re talking about single engineer aircraft because we’re not talking autolands, we’re not talking about a lot of different more complex systems. Even though we have all of these nice systems in front of us. We have the G1000 Perspective. That’s in the SR22. We have G1000 in all its iterations, in many different platforms, and now the G3000 and any number of these retrofits from Garmin as well and other companies. We have the ability to have lots of glass in the airplane. Take that glass away, what do you have? You have an airplane. At the end of the day, it still flies the same. It’s still a solid platform. It still has that performance parameter that you’re using it for, whether that’s utility or good cross-country endurance, whatever it is. At the end of the day, underneath, in the heart of the airplane is an airplane and not the automation. I’m a huge believer in automation honestly but I’m a believer in it only to the extent that it’s not taking over the other skills that we have to have as pilots. It’s very important. A lot of people are of this thought that the automation can help you learn faster or learn better or do things for you and you don’t have to know as much. In certain cases that’s true. I would say it’s a lot easier to learn how to fly IFR with a G1000 than it is old steam gauges with just an ATF and a VOR and a CDI, but completely different story. I don’t know, I just think that…
Jason: I don’t really think it’s much in the GA side of things, because you’re still going to fly the airplane when you get to the terminal area, but I think it really plagues our commercial pilots. The guys who are flying, people who are flying the heavy aiplanes, they get into that trap often. Take a look at the Children of the Magenta.
Chris: Yeah, really good video. Just google that and we’ll also put it in the show notes. Pretty iconic video. Pretty iconic seminar presentation.
Jason: But that will tell you straight right there. I mean, there’s classic automation issues.
Chris: Right. Going back to Asiana 214. From what I understand about the training that these particular Korean pilots went through, and I’m not throwing all Korean pilots under the bus. We’re not here to do that. We’re not here to throw Korean pilots under the bus or Asian pilots. There are good pilots everywhere, it depends on your attitude. However, with that said, these particular guys had very little time in basic airplanes. They had very little time learning stick and rudder skills and we’re seeing that a lot recently where because Asia is just booming as far as aviation is concerned. We’re seeing guys just being shoved through with very few hours, essentially going straight to jets almost. I mean, they essentially get their commercial rating, they go straight to jets and they’re learning how to fly a big 777 just with a couple hundred hours, and that wouldn’t be such a problem if the fundamental, even if the fundamentals to begin with had been better. It’s just kind of this, I guess this pilot factory problem that’s going on right now. I think we’re in a renaissance right now in a sense where people are understanding what’s going on with that training overseas in the aviation community. We understand the problems, they’re coming to light, especially with Asiana 214 and we see that not only are there things that can be done better overseas, there are things that can be done better here.
One thing I wanted to also share about, again The Killing Zone, a book that I just love, is Dr. Paul Craig that wrote the book. He did an experiment with two sets of pilots right? He did an experiment with a set of pilots that learned how to fly in TAA or called technically advanced aircraft, and a set of pilots that were taught to fly in just regular, everyday steam gauge airplanes. Definitely both airworthy. Obviously, they wouldn’t be putting him through that training if they weren’t. But the point they wanted to prove is that it wasn’t the technically advanced aircraft or TAAs that were helping these pilots become better pilots, it was the scenario-based training. As you said earlier Jason, aeronautical decision-making and building that in to the training from day one, from actual day one pre-solo, brand new student pilots teaching them aeronautical decision making along the process every step of the way. And what they proved through this study, is they proved that the pilots get their licenses at fewer hours. They have better aeronautical decision-making and it has nothing to do with the aircraft. Zero. The technically advanced aircraft has nothing to do with it. And if this wasn’t a scientific study, I would have some questions right, but this is something that they actually took, one set of pilots versus the other set of pilots and they prove that this is in fact the case and there’s a lot to learn from that situation not only in general aviation but there’s a lot the airlines can learn from that as well. Just thought I’d throw that in there.
Jason: It’s that risk. It all comes down to the risk. How much risk are you willing to take? In the GA level, anything you fly, you should be really treating it like a professional, you’re a captain.
Chris: Right. We need to be at the top of our game all the time.
Jason: That’s exactly right. Not “nah, it’s crappy, [inaudible-01:10:16] anyway.” That can’t happen.
Chris: Yeah. I’m right around 750 hours right now, right at this time of talking about this podcast. Earlier you talked about this Keys pilot right? And when you said that she had 900 hours, I was just thinking to myself “Man, once again, I’m being told by who knows what powers it be that I am much smaller and much more vulnerable than I thought.” And that’s something that as I gain more experience and I continue to learn, I realize more and more how lucky I am to have gotten as far as I have, through all of the situations that I have been in, to have just enough training to get beyond that challenge and beyond that situation, and this is a dangerous thing that we do. Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s not because it absolutely is. Now, the airlines have very different statistics from general aviation pilots, so make sure you don’t confuse those two sets of safety data. It’s really safe to fly at the airlines. It’s about 10 times more dangerous to fly a general aviation airplane than it is to drive. It’s always the comparison with driving right? There’s even the statistics like you’re more likely to get killed by a donkey or struck by lightning that you are in aviation accident. Well, that’s true but they’re talking about the airlines, not general aviation.
Jason: It’s a little different.
Chris: Definitely.
Jason: My mentor. He’s always told me this. He said “Jason, it’s not how many hours you have in your logbook. It’s the next hour that really counts.” And I’ve always said that, always said that. It doesn’t matter how many hours I have logged in that stupid book. It’s the next one.
Chris: Right. I mean, there’s actually a book with a title that I haven’t yet read but it’s on my wishlist, but that’s so true because regardless of what’s happened before, regardless of what we learned. Obviously we can pull certain knowledge from that body of experience, but right in front of us is what matters and those decisions. It doesn’t matter if we got away with it before. It doesn’t matter if this thing worked before and even though it was breaking a regulation, it’s not that big a deal. We can do it again. It doesn’t matter if we did an ILS down the minimums before and it was beautiful and we broke out the clouds and we landed, when it should’ve been outside of our personal minimums. It really is true. The next hour is the deciding hour and we have to be on our toes constantly. Because, again, one thing that I said in the beginning of this podcast is we believe in humility and that’s definitely part of what we believe in here at Angle-of-Attack and on AviatorCast is we are not invulnerable to these situations. We are not above these situations, and I think there’s a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking that goes on with aviation accidents like “Oh, this guy is an idiot. He did this,” or “this person did this.” There are situations that all of would get in where we would do really stupid things. If we’re tired enough, if we’re sick enough. If we go down the right chain of events.
Jason: Absolutely.
Chris: That’s one thing I’ve learned is it can get you and it can get you when you least expect it, so you may as well try to be as ahead as you can on the next hour.
So Jason, let’s wrap this up but I want to let you wrap it up with kind of your final thoughts on these three accidents that we’ve talked about and we’ll definitely have you back for another interview. You’re not going anywhere fast, so we’ll definitely talk about… because I think this is a very worthwhile subject. To talk about some of these things we can learn from, but I want to let you wrap up the interview portion of the show and just tell us what you think and wrap it all together for us. What do we need to take away from this episode of AviatorCast?
Jason: I think the biggest takeaway here if you’re in general aviation, doesn’t matter if you’re a commercial pilot, I think the biggest thing comes down to simply this. It’s simply aeronautical decision-making, and solid sound aeronautical decision-making. Do not compromise on safety. Do not compromise on your minimums. If you are not instrument-rated or even if you are instrument-rated, it might be a good idea to get somebody else a safety pilot in for you if you’re going to be flying through the clouds. Just something simple like that. For the commercial pilots out there, sometimes “Okay, we’ve got weather at our destination.” Well, you’re just going to take what the dispatcher gives you or are you going to want more fuel. Those are the things that really count and that’s this aeronautical decision-making. Okay, well if we can’t get to this destination then we’re going to hold or we’re going to go around and all that dispatches obviously included in that, and just don’t be boxed in a corner. There are too many accidents, way too many accidents, the gethereitis issues that occur because we think we have to fly somewhere, and no we don’t. Not all the time. Obviously in the airlines it’s a little different but…
Chris: But they’re very well trained and they have very much experience and a lot of practice at aeronautical decision-making.
Jason: And it’s called cancelled. There’s the word cancelled.
Chris: Or delayed, you know.
Jason: Yeah, delayed or cancelled, but it’s just make sound decisions and you can’t do that when you don’t have sleep. A lot of people laugh that off “Oh fatigue, it’s a joke.” No, it’s not. If you are fatigued, you will not make the decisions. And just keep your wits about you, that’s the takeaway. Just do it professional.
Chris: That’s the takeaway for this episode. I hope we have another equally as an important takeaway for the next time that we get together and chat about this stuff because I do find it very interesting. There is so much to learn. This is such a terrible pun but it always brings me back down to Earth. I always realize I just do not know as much as I think I know and right when I think “Oh yeah, I’ve taken a step up. I’ve learned this new skill,” I get broad-sided with another bit of knowledge. I’m thinking “wow.” Or a situation that happens. It’s like wow, I did not that was the case and I learned that wrong to begin with and now I’ve been corrected. It’s an endless cycle. We’ve got stay in that cycle. We’ve got to stay in the game and I really like your summary. Aeronautical decision-making.
Jason: It’s what it’s about. And Aztecs. Fly Aztecs.
Chris: Okay, but you got tell people that reference. Tell people why.
Jason: Just real quick. If I ever had money and there’s a twin engine out there I’m going to buy, it’s an Aztec. I mean, the things of flying tank, I’ve seen it. We responded to one crash. We got a phone call. As the airplane hit the runway, it smacked it so hard, it did a cartwheel all the way down the runway and it skid at about like 200 feet with sparks falling all over the place. And the pilot just pops out of that, opens the door, gets out, brushes his shoulders off and goes “alright” and just walks away. “I’m going to go get a hamburger.” We were like “Are you kidding me dude? Is he high?” No, he’s just walking away. And I said “That’s a testament to the Aztec.” It’s a flying tank.
Chris: Aeronautical decision-making and the flying tank. That’s a wrap. Alright, thanks Jason. We’ll have you back soon.
Alright, a big thank you goes out to Jason Sokoloff for being on this episode of AviatorCast. Much appreciated. A very different perspective than one we’re used to hearing. We’re used to getting these accident reports and not really hearing the direct human contact that actually happens when investigators go to the scene and see these sort of things. And also Jason’s perspective on aeronautical decision-making, disorientation and just how out of the ordinary some of these accidents can be and also how these accidents are often exactly ordinary, and kind of the same old thing. But I really appreciate what these accidents and incidents do for us as pilots, and with humility and with respect for those that have lost their lives, we definitely want to learn from these situations on what we can do better as aviators and pilots to be safer to carry yourselves and our passengers to that ultimate destination, being the end of our long life with greater safety. So, really appreciate Jason coming on the show and I look forward to having him back for another discussion. This is a topic that we could talk so much about. There are so many great examples through different accidents and incidents that we as pilots that can definitely learn from and we could definitely use him back on the show and talk about more of those.
So now, some credits for the show. This music has been brought to you by Atrosolis. You can like Atrosolis on Facebook and download this aviation-themed album. Many thanks go to the wonderful Angle of Attack crew. Jason is one of those crew members. They do such a fantastic job, and I can’t say enough about these guys. They really, truly keep the engine of Angle of Attack running, so you and I can do great and wonderful things like AviatorCast. This is just one of those shining great things we got to do but there’s a lot of great work that goes on behind the scenes that keep all of these running. So if you have any questions, comments, or you would like direct contact with me, you can do so by writing me at me@aviatorcast.com. Really simple. That will go straight my mail inbox.
Also, if you enjoyed the show or if you just want to leave a review, I would really appreciate your honest review on iTunes. You don’t have actually have to write a review there. You can just leave however many stars you think we deserve, whether that be five or four, whatever it is, feel free to go to iTunes and rate us and review us if you can do that. That will help others know about this show and let them know that it’s worth their time. Also, we send out email updates about AviatorCast when an episode is released. We release the AviatorCast episodes every Friday night or Saturday morning, however you want to view it at Zero Zulu. So every Friday night at Zero Zulu, we release the podcast. You can look for it then. But if you want to be reminded by email, you can simply go and sign up at AviatorCast.com and we’ll make sure to send you an update every time a new episode is release.
Last but certainly not least, you can check out our training products. Start with the basics for free with Aviator 90. Learn instrument procedures which we talk a lot about today in this AviatorCast with Aviator Pro or even fly in many of the world’s most popular jets virtually with our training products for the 737 which Jason is heavily involved in, 747, 777 and MD-11. Learn more at flyaoamedia.com. Thank you so much for joining us on this episode of AviatorCast. We are truly grateful to have you here, part of our wonderful and awesome community, and so engaged in this wonderful passion for flying things.
Until next time, throttle on!


This entry has 11 replies

Chris and Jason,
Great episode.

I wonder.

Is it possible to reproduce spatial disorientation in a full motion simulator?

If so then can you also do it on one of those motion platforms for simulators?


You can replicate this at home with a fairly simple procedure. First, get a swivel chair, next tilt your head to one side and put something over your head so it’s a bit dark. Finally have someone spin you around in the chair SLOWLY for at least two minutes. After the two minutes have the person stop you, take the blind fold off and put your head up and open your eyes.

Please fix the transcript: not working for this episode. When I click on the Transcipt button, nothing happens.

Our transcriptionist has been a few days behind the release of the podcast (because I haven’t been giving him much lead time). It’s done, and I’m adding it now.

Hi Chris and Jason,

I have a question regarding VMC into IMC. I was thinking about it before and since you touched that… Say you are IFR rated pilot and you do VFR flight. And it happens the conditions starts to become IMC. Can you call ATC and open IFR flight plan to continue to your destination? Say you backed up your navigation with VOR-VOR route for example and have IFR charts on board. Well, it is maybe a stupid question, why not to fly IFR from the beginning right? A question is just if it is possible to transition to IFR from VFR flight plan, if conditions develop in what you did not expect, or should you always turn around and land (or better land before you are forced to turn around).

Super great question. The answer is: yes, you can absolutely pick up IFR. You know that there are dangers in doing that, as you’ve already stated that you have the charts on board and so on. However, I’ve done this many, many times and it’s entirely possible. It’s also possible to go the other direction, too (IFR to VFR).

You should ALWAYS get IFR help if you’re in IMC. That simple. Nothing wrote or illegal about it. Flying in the clouds WITHOUT IFR is illegal.

Controllers are usually pretty understanding. As long as you’re not constantly doing stupid things, you can be forgiven here and there for doing something wrong. We all make mistakes.

For example, the initial flight of flying the G36 Bonanza I used to fly with a Turbo, I was weaving around some cumulaform clouds. The thing was a BEAST and it let me climb anywhere I wanted- full power.

So I went above FL180. I talked to the controller about another clearance, and he said, “You’re above FL180, you need a clearance up there……………” Long silence. I come back, “Ohhhhhhh, sorry about that! I’ll descend”.

So yes. Pick up IFR whenever you need it.

I have a collection of flight magazines that also discuss training. This is how the topic begins: “A stable approach.” “How do you approach your aviation experiences?”

Please note that I will only put down a few thoughts- it’s a long article.

Bad examples: Inexperienced pilots that are influenced by more experienced pilots. Another factor is the type of training from instructors.

Ego: (The worst poison you can get!!) As pilots, we’re all subjected to limits from the body and mind. As well as over-confidence.

Low level flying: The danger level increases significantly. The reason is that there is minimum altitude to correct mistakes. In this article it tells, that air force pilots often do low level flying, and will spend hours studying and planning their flights. Crop sprayers, will do the same: since they do lot of low level flying, it’s vital to know the topography, before starting to spray.

Those are some good ones! Good point. Certainly some things to learn there, as well.

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