Month: January 2016

Do commercial pilots sometimes forget or not notice if autothrottle is on/off when it should be in the opposite state?

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Answer by Thomas Zerbarini:

As you can see from your question in reference to the Asiana accident; yes it is possible for pilots to miss something. Although quite rare and unlikely it can happen. With improper training, distractions, complacency or other contributing factors errors are possible. That is why we train and re-train so much. It’s why we have multiple pilots, checklists, flows, scans and many other mechanisms to establish checks-and-balances for safety.

Aviation Week did a good article summarizing the NTSB findings which included the main probable cause and the many contributing factors that caused the accident.

With these findings in mind, we can emphasis how important it is for pilots to be diligent and monitor the aircrafts performance and flight path at all times even when the auto-pilot is engaged. Now, professional pilots know this and it is engrained in us. Yet, complacency can be insidious which makes monitoring each other in the cockpit is so important.

Here is an image of a Boeing 777 Cockpit:

At the very top on the glare shield panel in the center is the Mode Control Panel MCP (auto-pilot panel). It looks like this:


On the MCP you’ll notice on the left side the A/T (auto-throttle) switch light. This switch light is green when the auto-throttles are engaged. If you read the Aviation Week article I provided above you’ll notice that the A/T system was engaged, so the green switch light would be green (on) and if the pilot did a quick scan would see that they were on. Due to the design of the system though, the A/T’s were in FLCH “hold mode” and the low speed automatic response was inhibited. Thereby allowing the aircraft speed to deteriorate to a dangerously low speed. The fact that the pilot(s) did not recognize the dangerous low speed nor respond quickly enough is what the NTSB has highlighted as the primary blame for the accident.

Here is a great interactive (click on switches) website that describes the functions of the various controls on the MCP panel:

Thomas Zerbarini

Do commercial pilots sometimes forget or not notice if autothrottle is on/off when it should be in the opposite state?


What are the steps of becoming an airline pilot and how much time will it take?

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Answer by Thomas Zerbarini:

As with any endeavor or education/training required for a professional career, the steps are all similar:
  • Decision/Commitment: Once you've decided to become an airline pilot the next step is to commit to the decision. The reward to any career is your path and the experience you have along the way. I didn't realize this until I began to look back on my career and appreciating all the exciting things I accomplished and learned as I trained and gained my experience. Things like my first lesson, my first solo, my first passenger, my first flight through clouds, my first emergency procedure, my first paying job as a pilot, and so on… Keep the adventure in mind as you navigate through your training and gain your experience.
  • Research: Research colleges and flight schools locally and globally. Compare and contrast all the programs. Pay specific attention to fees, total costs, extras, and the amount of flight time you'll get. Also, ask for "average cost" per student and "average flight time" students of the school require to pass their programs. You'll find that they quote the FAA/ICAO minimums when stated program costs and have a small writing disclaiming that most students require more time. Most of all, get good training and education. If a school mentions employment at the end of your training, get it guaranteed in writing. I've seen countless schools offer employment in their brochures to sell their programs when they only have one or two slots for every 30-40 students going through the program.
  • Setting Goals: Once you've made your decision to pursue your training/education, set and write down your specific goals to accomplish your training. Map your path to success and constantly update your steps and goals as you progress. Remember, your goals are a fluid thing and you'll need to adjust the steps from time to time as you progress to stay on track.
  • Time: Be sure to dedicate the time required to be successful. Becoming an airline pilot can take years. Rarely, it can take just a year or two in some countries with a cadet (Muli-Pilot-License) program or similar.
  • Finances: Like most of us, if you're not one of the lucky few to get a scholarship, you'll have to figure out a way to pay for your education and training. The cost can grow to more than $100,000. So, do your research and calculate your budget.
  • Discipline: Once you make your decision and dedicate yourself, keep disciplined and stay focussed on your goal. Do your best not to get distracted from your timeline. Remember, most airlines base their rosters on seniority. The sooner you land your airline pilot job, the higher your seniority will be. Hence, better pay, schedules, faster upgrades, better vacations, etc…
The path to the airliner cockpit can be difficult and seemingly impossible to achieve. After all, if it was easy everyone would want to do it.
Good luck on your adventure and career..
Thomas Zerbarini

What are the steps of becoming an airline pilot and how much time will it take?

Why Children Need Their Dads

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Why Daughters Need Their Dads

I wholeheartedly agree. Positive in, positive out. Garbage in, garbage out. It applies to boys as well.

Parenting is such huge responsibility that shapes the minds, perceptions, behaviors and futures of our children. Environment is everything. Place a child in a loving nurturing environment with good ethics and morals, the child is most likely to be balanced, positive, loving and successful.

What if we placed a child in the opposite environment?

Consider the affects on a child(ren) that is torn away from their father or mother and surrounded by anger, shame, negativity, sly comments and many other negative stereotyping suggestions about the other parent. Imagine the confusion and conflict that will rage in the hearts and minds of these fragile children.

Eventually, the child will default into survival mode and align with the environment by which they are surrounded. If it’s the negative environment, they will eventually act and believe the negativity they are surrounded by. If it’s positive, well, you get the idea.

Our minds are incredibly fragile and malleable, especially children. They will believe whatever they are told, or influenced. To surround them with negativity especially when it comes to another loved one can be considered abusive.

So, why would we do anything but surround them with immense love and positive parenting?

Thomas Zerbarini