Monday, January 28, 2019

Saturday was Group 2 Safety Day

By Capt Karin Hollerbach, photos by 2d Lt Alexei Roudnev

On Saturday the 26th of January, forty-four Group 2 members assembled at Amazon’s campus for a Safety Day, and an additional half dozen or so attended remotely via online conferencing.

Group 2 Members Waiting for the Safety Day to Start.
Thanks to Maj Michelogiannakis for organizing this fun learning event! Thanks also to our presenters:

  • Lt Col Dolnick, CAWG Vice Commander
  • Lt Col Luneau, Group 2 Commander
  • Maj Blank, Group 2 Operations Officer
  • Maj Michelogiannakis, Group 2 Stan/Eval Officer (DOV) 
  • Maj Edwards, Group 2 Personnel Officer
  • Maj Kubiak, Group 2 Deputy Commander 
  • Maj McCutchen, Squadron 10 Deputy Commander for Seniors 

Lt Col Dolnick Sharing an Anecdote from his Student
Pilot Days.

Finally, we’d like to express our appreciation to Amazon for hosting us at their facilities and to the many dedicated CAP members who gave up a beautiful Saturday to participate in this safety event focusing on aircrew professionalism.

Col Dolnick kicked off the morning presentations with a personal anecdote from his student pilot days and a reminder from that story that when someone asks you in an airplane “do you think this is OK?”, what they’re probably really expressing is “I’m really uncomfortable with this!”

We also discussed an AOPA article describing a 2017 crash at Teterboro, in which the cockpit recorder brought to light apparently dysfunctional cockpit communications and lack of professionalism exhibited by the pilot and/or copilot, possibly contributing factors in degrading situational awareness and advancing task saturation. Although we don’t fly jets in CAP, several of the key elements of the scenario are highly relevant to many of our flights in the SF Bay Area:

  • Highly complex airspace
  • Experienced Mission Pilot 
  • Inexperienced Mission Observer (in the right seat, whether or not a “copilot”)

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is still ruling on probable cause of the accident, but in the meantime, we can certainly reflect on how quickly situational awareness can erode and how ALL crew members can and should speak up when they see safety related issues as they arise.

Maj Michelogiannakis, who is also a FAAST team member, talked about Group 2’s safety records. We have had minimal incidents – something that we want to continue; i.e., minimal mechanical incidents that we can’t do anything about, and no incidents that hurt people.

Maj Michelogiannakis Reviewing
Past Aircraft Accidents.

Accident Review

Maj Michelogiannakis  and Maj Edwards reviewed several CAP (not including Group 2) incidents that have occurred in the past, including:

  • Plane pushback – after a flight, or flights, the crew might be tired or grumpy, and it’s easy to lose situational awareness or to communicate less effectively. In this instance, one of the crew members was struck by the wing as the plane was pushed back. This is a good time to slow down! 
  • Wing strike – in another incident, a plane was parked too close to a fence and the wing struck the fence when making the turn to park. In the Bay Area, PAO is one of the airports that we regularly use and that is susceptible to this, simply due to its tight configuration in the parking areas. 
  • Low-level stall – here the pilot apparently verified the flight controls prior to takeoff. Everything seemed normal until about 60 knots, at which time the nose pitched up abruptly. The trim was found to be 10 degrees down – not a configuration you want on takeoff.  We don’t know what happened, but it’s possible the autopilot test during the preflight may have changed the trim – which is why we want to check it again afterward (as it also says to do on our checklists). If anyone in the aircrew notices a checklist item being skipped, that’s the time to speak up. 
Maj Edwards Discussing a Previous CAP Accident.

We can’t be certain how this might have happened. However, it’s possible that time pressure had something to do with it. We also had some good discussion in the room about preflighting, checklists, and whether we do a full preflight after the first flight, on subsequent flights in the same day. Once you start modifying checklists, what bad habits are you developing?

Several other CAP examples were discussed, which also highlighted the fact that sometimes situations creep up on you (another reason to always anticipate and stay ahead of the plane / situation) and that your choices particularly as a pilot may become more and more limited as a situation progresses. It’s easy to say afterward “what were they thinking?!”, but it’s not always as easy to make the right decisions at the right time in the moment.

Larger airplane examples also provided good material for discussion, and we talked about the importance of training, of paying attention to factors like fatigue, and of communicating clearly and effectively.

Safety Culture 

Maj Blank Shared a lot of Useful Information about
Developing a Safety Culture. 
In the afternoon, Maj Blank discussed CAP’s safety culture and what constitutes an effective safety culture, as well as common checkride failures, such as

  • Lack of documentation
  • Lack of knowledge of regs
  • Ensuring the written test was done within the correct time frame
  • Lack of preparation for demonstrating maneuvers
  • Inability to demonstrate proficiency in basic aircraft equipment
  • Not knowing about NOTAMs for an airport
  • Over-dependence on equipment – can you find the grid corner without using GPS?
  • Over focus on search objectives – while losing situational awareness of other aspects of the flight
  • Inability to fly the aircraft in basic search configuration – know your power settings for different flight configurations! 

With Maj Blank, we also discussed several critical factors, including a key one – normalization of deviance; i.e., the acceptance of behaviors and operating procedures that are non-standard. Just because “we always do it like this and it’s never been a problem” doesn’t mean it’s the right or the safe way to do it.

Doing it “your” way may come back to bite you; accommodations for style are important – but never to compromise on safety.

Expectation bias and what constitutes clear and effective communication were additional hot topics.

Squadron 188 Member, 2d Lt Ferland
Sharing a "Lessons Learned"Anecdote.
There are multiple identified leadership styles in aviation. The one we are aiming for is the Transformational style, using CRM – a leader evaluates the changing dynamic situation and doesn’t get locked into a single course of action; this leader listens and acts on the inputs of those around them (the crew members). One of our challenges in general aviation is that most of us have only been formally trained in single pilot operations. The FAA has excellent guidance on this topic – and it is well worth reading.

Since situational awareness is so critical to safe flying, we spent considerable time talking about
Strategies for preventing loss of SA
Red flags – how do you see it (loss of SA) coming?
If it does happen, how do you recover from it?

Some of the red flags discussed included:

  • Undocumented procedures – normalization of deviance 
  • Need to hurry up or last minute changes
  • Fatigue
  • Ambiguous or confusing information
  • Fixation
  • Unexpected change in airplane state or unusual reaction to inputs
  • Failure to
  • Fly the plane or look outside
  • Comply with SOPs, regs, limitations or other guidance
  • Resolve discrepancies
  • Communicate effectively

Squadron 188 Member, 2d Lt Sharma
Sharing Another Anecdote.

Extreme Professionalism 

Later in the afternoon, Col Luneau addressed achieving extreme professionalism in CAP and what that means for us, citing several examples.

Yes, extreme professionalism is our goal – professionalism is more of an attitude and a way of being than anything linked to whether or not you receive a paycheck.

We started off this part of the day with several members sharing stories about learning opportunities from past incidents or near-incidents that they were part of.

Thanks for fabulous acting skills, Maj Kubiak and Maj McCutchen presented several hilarious episodes highlighting uniform violations and examples of poor (unprofessional) cockpit behavior.

So what is professionalism in aviation? It includes the pursuit of excellence through discipline, ethical behavior, and continuous improvement.

Lt Col Luneau (L front) Leading an Interactive Discussion on Professionalism, with Maj McCutchen (C front) and Maj Kubiak (R front) Demonstrating Violations of the CAP Uniform Regs.
Can You Spot the Violations in this Picture?

CAP does have an Aircrew Code of Conduct; please review General Smith’s video on professionalism, if you haven’t yet seen it or feel you need a refresher. We can each ask ourselves, “What is my own improvement process?”

Also, please go visit the Group 2 Stan/Eval website to see the presentations of the day - and a lot of other useful information.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018


Capt Luis Rivas
Photos by Luis Rivas

Twenty three members of Group 2 participated in a Basic SAREX exercise with a scenario designed to practice, refresh and renew emergency services ratings. The clubhouse at Buchanan Field in Concord was the incident command post for the exercise.
Lt Col Suter Delivering the Morning Briefing

The trainees included an Incident Commander, aircrew, ground teams and base staff searching for an “overdue aircraft” that departed Gnoss Airfield in Novato enroute to Los Banos Municipal Airport. A practice beacon, simulating the aircraft ELT, was placed at a location unknown to the trainees, with the mission of locating and deactivating it.
Aircrew Flight Planning
Maj Brown Preflighting the C172 

The newest Group 2 aircraft, a Cessna 172 with a modern glass cockpit, supported two Urban Direction Finding (UDF) teams in the search.

Communications Team C/SSGT Patil, Maj Gadd

The aircraft began searching from the point of departure of the overdue aircraft, and detected the beacon over San Ramon, significantly narrowing down the search area. 

UDF Team briefing
The UDF teams were dispatched from Buchanan Field and directed to conduct ramp searches at the Livermore, Oakland, Hayward and Reid-Hillview airports. 

Utilizing clues generated by the aircraft, the UDF teams, working together, tracked down the practice beacon to a location near Lake Del Valle. The beacon was hidden beneath a tree near a plywood silhouette made to represent a downed a downed aircraft from the air.
UDF Team finds overdue aircraft

SM Wilson finds ELT 

Lt Col Suter was the Incident Commander trainee, and he was quoted as saying “This exercise was a great training opportunity, particularly adjusting the mission to cope with constantly changing challenges. Overall a small but successful SAREX." His mentor Lt Col Deford remarked "We had a very educational exercise both in its successes and lessons learned."

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Camp Fire AP Mission Support

By Capt Louie Rivas

FEMA recently requested the resources of the Civil Air Patrol’s California Wing to assist with the collection of high resolution images in support of the disaster recovery efforts of the Camp Fire.
Camera (Lt Col Luneau)

This is California’s largest fire, burning over 153,000 acres, destroying over 18,000 buildings and claiming more than 80 lives. A high resolution infra-red camera unaffected by the smoke and haze was mounted to the wing strut and connected to a tablet. The tablet provides an overhead view of the terrain and the desired track.

Tablet (Lt Col Luneau)

The mission was a carefully coordinated effort between CAP and the various firefighting agencies requiring special permission to enter the Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) area. The sorties were flown after the water tankers and support aircraft had departed the area. The low visibility flying conditions and the precise coordinated flight required of the camera require a highly trained crew with sharp Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) and Crew Resource Management (CRM) skills.  The Mission Observer monitored the tablet, radios, and situational awareness, while the pilot monitored the primary flight display, course track and situational awareness too.

CAP aircraft flew multiple successful sorties over predetermined burned out areas taking images which FEMA analyzes to assess the damage and its allocation of resources.

The efforts are ongoing and Major Marc Sobel, CAP's Incident Commander said "we hope to finish the Camp Fire in the next few days, weather permitting and will move to Woolsey Fire next week.”

CAP has collected images for a number of disasters including the gulf oil spill, numerous tornadoes and hurricanes.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Group 2 Emergency Procedures Flight Clinic

By Capt Karin Hollerbach

Yesterday I completed my sortie in our emergency procedures flight clinic and, always in our clinics, learned a lot!

Capt Michelogiannakis. Archive photo.
Group 2 organized a flight clinic for our pilots to practice emergency procedures – especially those that we might not ordinarily train for in our normal training, even when preparing for a Form 5 or a biennial flight review. Thanks to Capt Michelogiannakis (Squadron 188) for organizing the event and acting as Project Officer as well as Ground School (and Flight) Instructor.

Staff in the clinic included Group 2 instructors and an Incident Commander (IC)/Flight Release Officer (FRO):
  • Lt Col Dolnick (California Wing)
  • Lt Col Luneau (Group 2)
  • Maj Tubis – IC and FRO (Squadron 10) 
  • Maj Ironfield (Squadron 156)
  • Capt Michelogiannakis (Squadron 188)
  • Capt Arasmith (Squadron 10)  
  • Capt Basile (Squadron 10)

A total of 12 pilots are going through the training, which included the ground school (done virtually, since we are scattered all over the Bay Area) and one sortie per participant.

Ground school discussion topics included:
  • Engine fire
  • Electrical fire to emergency descent
  • Wing fire
  • Impossible turn simulated at altitude
  • Power off landings from altitude to an uncontrolled field
  • Landing without flaps
  • Simulated alternator failure (G1000 aircraft)
  • Landing with a flat tire or severe bald spot
  • Brake failure in one wheel 
  • Asymmetrical flaps 

Among both the staff and the students, we've had great cross-squadron participation! Twelve pilots came from 5 different Group 2 squadrons:
  • Lt Col Suter (Squadron 44) 
  • Lt Col McDowell (Squadron 80) 
  • Maj Brown (Squadron 156) 
  • Capt Rivas (Squadron 188) 
  • Capt Hollerbach (Squadron 188) 
  • Capt Mateos (Squadron 10)  
  • Capt Heldt (Squadron 80)
  • 1st Lt Kraus (Squadron 188) 
  • 1st Lt Booth (Squadron 188)
  • 1st Lt De Bleecker (Squadron 10)
  • 1st Lt Gross (Squadron 10)
  • 2d Lt Sharma (Squadron 188)

Here's where I get to point out that 25% of our pilot participants in this clinic are women.  Nice work, Group 2! (And an additional 8 pilots are men.  Nice work, Group 2!)

My sortie was a great combination of fun and learning. That seems to have been the theme among students. Lt Col McDowell, for example, started his learning immediately, before he even got to the emergency procedures: "the flight itself was a bit of a challenge as I was in a new plane with avionics I wasn't familiar with."

I was happy to hear him say that, because "new" (to the aircrew) avionics may be workable when everything is going smoothly on a clear, calm VFR day in familiar territory, but once things start going wrong, they can go very wrong very quickly when unfamiliar avionics are thrown into the mix. At least for me, I've found it really important to train with new aircraft/avionics in "easy" conditions.

We started off with emergency descents, with the goal of reaching the ground (preferably a suitable location on the ground!) as quickly as possible, while remaining safe. That was well worth practicing before you have to do it in a real emergency, as the steep spiral that we did (on the assumption that we wanted to get down in a location close to where we were, not use our descent to get somewhere further away) presented a rather unusual sight picture – at least, unusual for anyone, like me, not used to aerobatics.

Following the emergency descent, we also practiced a simulated “impossible turn”, simulating an engine out shortly after takeoff, and measuring how much altitude we lost if turned the more than 180 degrees required to return to the runway and land (in the opposite direction of takeoff). Fun at altitude… probably a lot scarier close to the ground. Of course, how much you actually lose will depend on a lot of factors, including your airplane’s configuration, the wind, your reaction time and ability to maintain best glide, etc.

An extension of that was the simulated engine out at higher altitude, where we spiraled down over an un-towered airport, lined up with the downwind portion, and then turned in a “normal” pattern to land.  Well, I didn’t land due to crosswinds, but demonstrated being able to land. I did come in too high because I didn’t want to do another complete 360 turn – which probably should have had me extending my downwind a bit further but instead I slipped into the runway. Perhaps there was some psychological pressure to not get too far away from the runway…

On the flight back to KOAK, we also discussed several in flight fire scenarios, and simulated an alternator failure. Finally, we ended with a no flap landing and a short field landing.

On top of all that, Capt Michelogiannakis caught a couple of less-than-ideal flying habits of mine, which was great! The goal, after all, was to improve my flying skills and to increase safety – ideally while having fun doing it.  All goals were accomplished!  A huge ‘thank you’ to all of our volunteers for making this clinic happen and to our pilot participants to investing time to improve their skills.

For those of you who haven't completed your sorties yet, fly, fly, fly!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Fifth Tuesday BBQ with Squadron 18

By Capt Karin Hollerbach and Lt Col Juan Tinnirello, photos by Lt Col Tinnirello except as noted

Squadron 188 members unloading equipment at HWD in
preparation for the event.
Last week, Squadron 188 members headed over to Hayward to get together with Squadron 18 for 5th Tuesday barbecue at Squadron 18’s headquarters. On the agenda were both training events and plenty of food and conversation, as well as opportunities to get to meet more CAP members within Group 2.  For many of us, most of the members we interact and work with are within our own squadron, so any opportunity to mingle with other squadrons is welcome!

Several Squadron 188 members met early at KOAK to load up mission critical equipment, including the Squadron 188 grill for barbecuing, as well as UDF and radio equipment for training. Thanks to all who were able to show up early and pitch in for this.

Future pilot practicing on a flight simulator.
Lt Devine operating the grill. 

At HWD, Squadron 18 Commander, 1st Lt Hurst, gathered the squadron's cadets and explained the purpose of the combined event. She then introduced Capt Hayes, who provided details of how the training would take place.

Eleven Squadron 18 cadets participated in hands-on Emergency Services (ES) activities after some classroom training sessions with Squadron 188 members. The emphasis was on radio communications (training led by 1st Lt Roberts) and Urban Direction Finding, i.e., searching for a practice beacon (led by 1st Lt Chavez), and on having fun, too. After the classroom training, two teams searched for - and both successfully found - a practice beacon.

Lt Roberts providing classroom training for Comm.
Further training will be necessary to complete all the requirements to become a UDF team member, but the basic instructions and practice received that evening will help the cadets to accomplish this important ES goal. The communications class will also require further training, but the first steps were completed and put the cadets well on their way in their training for the Mission Radio Operator (MRO) rating.

SM Pagels reported having fun to interact with the cadets, as this was her first time doing so, and found the review of radio communications and UDF basics to be a helpful learning experience –not just for the cadets!

The overall intent was to: support Squadron 18, introduce ES, and hopefully get some additional members interested in and beginning on their training for their ES ratings.

Lt Chavez providing classroom training for UDF.

Cadets and senior members putting their UDF training to use in the field.

Capt Hayes speaking to Squadron 18 cadets. 

Lining up for food!
Lt Mello and Capt Fenolio flew o-rides for several cadets earlier in the afternoon. The cadets all had a great time, some initially timid but by the time they were able to understand the basic principles of flight, were eager to hold on to the flight controls for themselves. One of the cadets on his 3rd syllabus flight is working on training for his private pilot certificate and has already experienced slow flight, stalls, and other maneuvers.

Another cadet on her 4th syllabus flight understood the flight instruments well, and did the GPS navigation on her o-ride, navigating to LVK and to CCR, and working on other flight instruments including airspeed and altimeter, and became very good at understanding trim and coordinated flight.  Her summary, “that was fun!”

Cadet Fontanilla (L) on her 4th syllabus flight,
with Capt Fenolio (R). Photo by Capt Fenolio.

While all the training was taking place, senior members and parents prepared dinner, led by 1st Lt Devine at the BBQ. When the food was ready, everybody gathered at the mess hall and had a yummy dinner as well as a great time conversing with each other and making new friends.

Finally, a group picture of all the cadets and senior members was taken to document the memorable event.

The event was a great success: Training was successful; fun was had; everyone stayed safe. A number of squadron leaders asked for additional sessions in the future and some of the senior cadets expressed interest in participating in future exercises.

Enjoying an excellent meal together.
Squadron 188 members that participated included:

  • Lt Col Tinnirello
  • Capt Hayes
  • Capt Rivas
  • Capt Fenolio – provided o-rides to Squadron 18 cadets 
  • 1st Lt Chavez – led UDF training
  • 1st Lt Choate
  • 1st Lt Roberts – led Comm training
  • 1st Lt Devine – awesomely worked the grill
  • 2d Lt Roudnev
  • 2d Lt Valeur
  • 2d Lt Campbell
  • 2d Lt Sharma
  • 2d Lt Rainville
  • 2d Lt Mello – provided o-rides to Squadron 18 cadets 
  • SM Ferland
  • SM Pagels

Members of Squadrons 188 and 18.