Sunday, October 19, 2014

Peer Pressure

As I fly from one airport to another I speak to numerous air traffic controllers. Let's say I depart Grande Prairie (I think they're almost finished the runway upgrade) for Calgary. I would call Grand Prairie Radio, who would ask me to monitor the clearance delivery frequency. Once I had the clearance I would go back to radio, until after take off, when I would switch to Edmonton Centre. They clear me to my cruise altitude and on course heading, and then might switch me to Edmonton Centre on a different frequency to continue monitoring my flight. As I approach Calgary they will switch me to Calgary Arrivals (which is probably the same frequency as Calgary Departures), who will give me an approach clearance. If there are numerous approaches available at an airport, they may ask me which I prefer. If not, they'll just assign me the usable one. If the weather conditions are fine and I can see the airport, the approach may be "visual" -- no fancy electronics required, just fly to the runway. They can assign me the visual, or I can ask for it, but if I don't feel comfortable with the visual, or just want to practise my skills, I can ask for an instrument approach.

On this occasion I've just switched to the arrivals frequency and I hear the controller telling a pilot, "Everyone is doing visuals, but if that's what you really want to do, you can plan it." That pilot had obviously just asked for an instrument approach.

The pilot responds, "Okay, we'll do the visual."

We did the visual, too, as fast as we could and still get the gear down, because that's what tower (the frequency approach handed me off to) asked for.


Garrett said...

Listening to ATC I've often wondered just how much safety is lost with this peer pressure. Especially in the pressure cooker spots like NYC. I wonder what happened to the American captain from this event:
American declares emergency due to crosswind

Unknown said...

There are really persistent inconveniences in the course of flying planes, especially if one does it professionally, like for an airline service, where a lot is at stake and several parties are claiming ownership of one's ideas and actions. So yeah, forge ahead and think straight. Just embrace the experiential gifts that flights bring to you. All the best!

Raymond Curry @ Holstein Aviation

Aviatrix said...

I didn't watch it all the way through, because airport internet isn't good for videos. I thought the "we're going to declare an emergency" ultimatum was a bit much. "Unable 22L due to company crosswind limitation" should have sufficed. I've asked for and received, and heard others do the same, all kinds of safety-related exceptions. They are usually accommodated very well.