Call me an optimist, but I like to think pilots and air traffic controllers get along pretty well. If both parties communicate and respect each others needs, planes flow smoothly through the national airspace system.
The Asiana Airlines flight crew mismanaged the descent of a 777 into San Francisco International Airport last July, the NTSB said in its probable-cause hearing in June. The pilots made several mistakes and by the time they decided to go around it was too late. The airplane hit the seawall, causing a fiery crash that killed three passengers and seriously injured 49. The board also found the complexities of the auto-throttle and autopilot flight director systems contributed to the crash, and should have been more clearly described both in Boeings documentation and in Asiana pilot training. Crew fatigue also was a factor. The board also said emergency responders on the scene, who ran over one of the crash victims with a fire truck, should have been better trained and equipped. The board followed up with 27 safety recommendations to the airline, Boeing, the aircraft firefighting group, and the city and county of San Francisco.
Fuel is the single biggest variable expense for aircraft operators. What if you could reduce your cost by 30 percent? In addition to being expensive, gas is heavy. New airplanes containing the creature comforts of a luxury car have terrible useful loads with full tanks. Maybe three normal adults can fit into a typical four-place airplane before being overweight. Add baggage, golf clubs, or fishing poles and youre leaving gas behind. Trading gas for weight can severely limit range, one of the consequences of traveling by plane.
Its no secret that general aviations accident rate is significantly worse than the airlines and corporate flight departments. According to NTSB studies over the first 10 years of this century, youre 12 times more likely to have an accident when flying your own or a rented GA aircraft.
A favorite IPC question: When is an alternate required? The answer: Always. But like most rules, there is an exception. In a style only a bureaucrat can appreciate, the exception is listed before the rule.