22 June 2009

Taking to the skies… One flight at a time…

As an airline pilot under training, I was fortunate to have been assigned the observer seat on my return back to the Gold Coast from Kuala Lumpur last week with Captain Wong & First Officer Raveen. Big shoutout to Capt. Hans who heads AirAsia X’s Flight Operations for making it happen for me! Capt. Hans, you really gave me that extra drive to continue pursuing one of the most challenging careers in the world. Now too, I believe could be, the most under-rated and taken-for-granted occupations too.

Most of us had once (if not still) have the misconception that pilots are there in the cockpit merely for show. I mean, with this age of technology, theoretically the big tin can fly itself through the skies right??? Well… with the above statement being partially true, I have had countless statements thrown at me, going along the lines of… “Eh! You pilots don’t really do anything right… everything is all on AUTO-PILOT”. Then they would go on to the infamous query… “So, what do you really do in the cockpit ah?”

What doesn’t help my case in defense is that, recent stats show that 80% of all accidents and incidents result from “pilot error” or now, known as “human error”. I am writing this blog to share with you a world without pilots. Then, show you a world with. My objective would be to give you both sides of the coin, for you to draw your own value then, take to the bank.


With the advancement of Airbus Technologies through the years standing more towards taking the side on computers rather than Boeing Technologies views which believe that “the human should have the final say”, a lot has been debated between the Computer vs. Human. Without going too much into detail, just in case you weren’t familiar, Boeing believes that if the pilot flying a 747 Jumbo inverted is the only way required to save the life of all its passengers (say to avoid a collision with another aircraft) then so be it— of course this would possibly mean exceeding the 747’s structural limitations. The Boeing plane might break apart.

Airbus on the other hand believes that, by building in “hard limits” to the airplanes fly-by-wire controls (for example), you could never exceed these structural limitations ie. a specific angle of bank of 67”; therefore, the aircraft should never break apart.

As student pilots, we should work not towards a continuous debate but towards utilizing all our resources for the benefit of safety while maximizing situational awareness.

Let me share with you some points we cover in flight-training, which prepare us pilots, with the right knowledge and experience, to help battle the “human errors” in flying and, when those sophisticated electronics and computer systems—fail.


It is widely accepted and proven, that any incident or accident is caused not by one particular event but a chain of events. In flight training, we the student pilot are equipped with the knowledge to a) identify the events which could lead to an undesirable outcome, b) break the chain of events that could have already begun and/or more importantly c) manage the undesirable outcome successfully should the undesirable outcome—become even more undesirable.

This is known to many veteran aviators as “Threat Error Management”. Google it. Big shout out to Captain Hassan for also sharing me his thoughts on T.E.M. over a Teh-Tarik session last week before I left back to Australia.

The better you are at T.E.M., the more aware you are of your surroundings and/or understand what is going on around you and your airplane. Here is another string for you to Google—Situational Awareness.

Situational Awareness and Threat Error Management (T.E.M.) are essential to safety and are preached religiously all throughout flight training. Let’s face it, as a captain of an aircraft, if on a normal day with a full night’s sleep we know we could do a low visibility approach onto a wet runway in light rain without too much hassle however; if the same approach conditions exist and prior before setting up to land, our landing lights become inoperative, the radio becomes wonky, other aircraft/traffic in the area begin to lose their sense of direction due weather (happens quite often as a student pilot) then… ‘nuff said.

Clearly we were aware of the situation, but if we proceeded with the approach, we would have disregarded all the threats and could eventually be another statistic in aviation tragedy.

Without going too much into the flying aspect just yet, I’d also like to share that, there are just so many details which go into any flight that as a student pilot still in flying school, you have to do it all yourself too!

From obtaining the weather report from the meteorology department to deciphering what it actually means, planning the performance load sheets for your aircraft and all its thousands of calculations, a lot of work is being put into flying that, unless you are a pilot of have read this blog, really wouldn’t know!

Captain Lim and Captain Dom will probably share with you their appreciation to having most of all their “pre-flight” material and reports submitted to them before their international commercial flights. This allows them time to focus on other important issues which would be getting AirAsia passengers to their destinations a) safely, b) on time and c) with more spending more to spare (having saved so much by paying lower ticket prices!).

Regardless, if push comes to shove, these veteran captains should still able to do all the “dirty” work of flight planning, report deciphering etc, all by themselves, as they are thought in flight school. So Captain Dom, Captain Lim, do you still remember how to calculate Pressure and Density Heights? Hehe.

Back to life as a student pilot here in Australia, I must admit, it does have both its pros and challenges. The pros are pretty obvious, you are in a foreign land, you get to meet new people and experience new cultures, you get to really focus on your goals (as being away from home, you somewhat get to leave your troubles and worries behind… somewhat), and yeah, here at the Australian Wings Academy on the Gold Coast, you get to go to the beach ever so often and hunt kangaroos up the hill with a plastic boomerang. Hehe.. just kidding.

The challenges would always be similar to moving to any new environment, experiencing foreign cultures etc but, the biggest challenge for me personally which stuck out like a sore thumb to me was, the food.


But it’s all good, i’ve learnt how to cook and that helps a lot. So I can “masak” my own roti-canai lah when I have to or make some nice bee hoon goreng ker… Anyways, thinking of food is now making me hungry. Am going to cook something up!

Catch me next week when we really get into the flying of things. In the meantime don’t forget to follow me on Twitter.com/jfkjohan and checkout more pics and videos as well on www.johanfaridkhairuddin.com. Facebook is active, link to adding me is there on www.facebook.com/jfkjohan too! Oh, and i’ve even got videos from the take off from KLIA, enroute and approach into the Gold Coast from last week’s Xanadu 2702 flight on file.

Till the next posting, take care and be safe!

Remember, always anticipate.

Sincerely,
JFK

  • Jong

    Nice sharing~~~~~!!!!

  • Mohd Danial

    that’s a cool post JFK.. i guess learning about the Situational Awareness and T.E.M really makes a difference huh.. keeps your head cool and stable on your shoulders without clouding one’s judgement.. just exactly what a Pilot should be.. very interesting.. looking forward to your next post.. keep it up man!

    _danial

  • Syed Idrus

    I am looking forward to the day I fly Air Asia Xanadu with you in the pilot seat. That would certainly be a historic moment that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life!

  • Johan Farid

    Hi Jong – Thanks mate!

    Mohd Danial – It was nice meeting you here on the Gold Coast mate! Call me when you get back, and we could probably do some flying together!

    Syed Idrus – Lets make it happen mate. Dreams can come true. Believe. Bless.