Thursday, October 24, 2019

Green Flag Presentation

By Capt Rivas, photos by Lt Col Tinnirello

Capt Hollerbach gave a presentation on a major program the Civil Air Patrol supports, Green Flag. Green Flag is the name given to the US Air Force’s realistic air-land integration training program in support of US and allied forces. CAP’s role is to support training of ground forces in their use of air assets. CAP also provides training and support to CAP’s Emergency Services mission, including disaster relief and search and rescue.

CAP C-182 and C-206 aircraft are aircraft modified with full motion video systems similar to those used by USAF. Once aloft video is transmitted in real time to ground receivers either being used by military units in training or linked into Federal/State emergency communications centers. 

The aircraft is flown by three highly skilled CAP members and may operate in challenging conditions, including instrument conditions, mountainous terrain, and/or at night. The aircrew are trained in the use of the sensor ball camera, managing the mission (in the air), communicating with ground teams and other air assets, and of course flying the aircraft. Not all crew members must be pilots, but can expect to be trained to multiple crew positions.

Capt Hollerbach is a CAP Mission Pilot and is about to enter her 3rd year as a crew member of Green Flag. She is trained in the use of the sensor ball and mission management.

CAP Nationwide Communications Exercise

By Capt Rivas, photo by 2nd Lt Terry Baldwin

Members of SQ188 are currently participating in a nationwide radio communications exercise orchestrated by the United States Air Force (“USAF”).  USAF gave CAP 24hrs notice for the start of the 5 day exercise. 
The scenario is that it’s a “very bad day” and all the commercial phone/internet infrastructure has been impacted, so all we have is HF radio and maybe VHF.  In California Wing (“CAWG”), several HF stations are manned most days by CAP members who have radios at home; and some members will travel into a base to use the radios at that facility.  Radio stations will report in, messages will be exchanged, and training will be conducted.

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.