Thursday, August 28, 2014

Bad Technology Day

I've been struggling with my phone lately, not getting text messages, not having it ring when I'm called. An update to the OS did the trick, even though the OS update notes were all for apps I don't use. I heard someone in the air having an equally frustrating time with technology.

"We're struggling with the FMS right now. Can we have direct BOXON?"

The FMS is the flight management system, the magic box that tells the flight director and the autopilot where the airplane is supposed to go. I don't know the clearance that the pilots were given initially, but they were apparently unable to persuade their FMS to accept the waypoint or procedure, so they chose one it would accept to fly towards it while they continued the battle.

I hear another pilot given a hellish multi-stage missed approach clearance including direct to a random sounding lat-long. It's because there is a large swathe of NOTAMed active military airspace blocking access to the normal airways no doubt. Programming a lat-long into the FMS while on approach sounds fun. Not. I screw it up on the ground from time to time. I have to create a user waypoint for the lat-long, can't enter it in the flight plan or direct-to screen. The pilot reads the clearance all back and life goes on. But a while later she comes back to confirm the lat-long. Yep, it's correct.

"The FMS won't take lat-long. Can we go direct [fix]?" she says. Negative, that's in restricted airspace.

"How about [fix]?" That's approved.

We cancel IFR and slip underneath it all.


Cedar Glen said...

At the end of the day, the head driver, PIC, makes the choices. If ATC's clearance is considered unsafe or simply not reasonably possible, respond with "Cannot comply" (perhaps a reason) and "Need XYZ, quickly."
Since the PIC is ultimately responsible for everything, ATC's instructions are 'guidance,' not 'direction.' In most cases, the difference is ignored, but as PIC, YOU are still responsible for the outcome. If reasonably unable to comply with the 'guidance' offered, say so firmly - and tell ATC what your safe course requires. In the end, this is about safety, not ATC's convenience. They service pilot's needs, not the inverse! If a change or need is necessary, TELL them what you need. Telling them why may be helpful and reasonable, but it is not required. Fly your own airplane - and exactly where it needs to go.

majroj said...

Might wrangling with the technology absorb enough of the flight desk's eyes that something worse may occur?