Are pilots like Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger really a dying breed? The Airbus 320 is a modern aircraft which you fly with a side stick instead of the traditional wheel we have all come to think of in aircraft. The instrumentation of the aircraft is projected on large LCD screens rather than through mechanical devices like artificial horizons and altimeters and all of that. We live in the age of the "glass cockpit", even in smaller business and general aviation aircraft. There is a lot to be said about these wonderful developments, but sometimes I wonder. As I watched "60 Minutes" tonight I was struck when Capt. Sullenberger talked about starting the APU (auxiliary power unit) when both aircraft engines failed. The reason this is important is that when the engines fail, the generators fail, and you are down to battery power which may or may not be sufficient for the remaining flight time. The APU insures that there will be enough electrical power, although with his experience and given the weather he could have completed the landing without them.
As you listen to the radio transmissions you understand that Capt. Sullenberger knew where he was. We pilots call this "situational awareness". He quickly ran down the list of options and settled on the Hudson River. All of this took place in 5 minutes from takeoff to splashdown. Sometimes I wonder if the crop of pilots learning today don't become too dependent upon the gizmos in the cockpit rather than the basics of flying. I remember learing to fly on instruments when we didn't have anything other than a VOR or ADF indicator and some charts to know where we were. It was essential that we always knew where we were, even as we navigated through the clouds. An acquaintence of mine writes his own blog, Plastic Pilot
, and asked me to provide him with a little information regarding my experiences in aviation. If you have a moment you might want to take a read. Perhaps it will tell you a little about flying in the late 50s and 60s. Writer Robert Kolker
wrote an interesting piece in the New York Magazine on February 3rd
, but I don't think he gets it quire right. He maintains airline pilots today are not "mavericks" any more, but rather more like asset managers who fly highly automated aircraft and act more like observers than pilots. But most of the airline pilots I know love to fly, whether it is a J3 Cub or an Airbus 320, and I don't think most of them take their job quite as casually as Kolker thinks. What do you think? Drop me a note an let me know. Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7
As you know, birds do not have sexual organs because they would interfere with flight. [In fact, this was the big breakthrough for the Wright Brothers. They were watching birds one day, trying to figure out how to get their crude machine to fly, when suddenly it dawned on Wilbur. "Orville," he said, "all we have to do is remove the sexual organs!" You should have seen their original design.] As a result, birds are very, very difficult to arouse sexually. You almost never see an aroused bird. So when they want to reproduce, birds fly up and stand on telephone lines, where they monitor telephone conversations with their feet. When they find a conversation in which people are talking dirty, they grip the line very tightly until they are both highly aroused, at which point the female gets pregnant.
— Dave Barry, 'Sex and the Single Amoebae.'