Flying high on skill!
As I pen this column I’m flying from Perth to Sydney. Flight time is about four and a half hours giving me plenty of time to review things. Getting on board the Virgin big bird is a process with experienced staff ushering you to your assigned seat. At 35,000 feet you feel like things are seemless, not a care in the world. Looking around the cabin some people are reading newspapers, others watching inflight entertainment, some sleeping, with yours truly writing. I bet not one passenger is thinking of what is going on up front in the flight deck; by the way that’s the politically correct term for cock pit.
Our first and second officers dressed in uniform are taking us on a journey and you guessed it, our lives are totally in their hands! How would passengers feel if the pilot came over the airwaves saying, Good morning folks, you’re on flight XYZ to Sydney with flying time being blah, blah, blah. By the way, this is the first time I’ve flown an A330 200, the last plane I flew was a single engine Cessna.
Imagine the mayhem, total panic, oh my god we are going to die. Before you cancel your Velocity membership, what I’ve outlined is hyperthetical. So how much training do pilots get before they attain their wings and does this training differ to what goes on with driving motor vehicles?
Many years ago I had the privilege of flying a Qantas 747 400 jet and it was a truly mind blowing experience. You ask how is this so and is the ‘Luffman’ a pilot? No, I’m not, but I was a VIP guest that got to fly a simulator worth about $15 mill. These mega machines are the real deal with sick bags handed out just in case. A client of ours who was also invited along laughed when handed the bag, later in the flight the last laugh was on him.
We were taken through a series of emergency situations with loss of one engine, then two plus horrific wind shear that moves the aircraft around like a roller coaster. The chief instructor always remains calm and in control, his hands close by to take control. During landings your brain is racing, you’re so busy checking instruments, getting lined up knowing passengers are expecting a perfect touch down. The instructor will not let you crash, it’s not part of the plan and incredibly expensive to repair hydraulic rams. In fact his hands and feet are on the controls making adjustments to any errors I’m making. You can’t imagine the pressure, responsibility, no time to panic; you just have to get this on the runway. A female voice says ‘one hundred’ over the speaker above my head meaning one hundred feet. My throat is tight, perspiration of tsunami proportions, come on ‘Luffman’ get this right. At this stage my guest is road testing his sick bag thinking we will crash. Through good management, damn great instruction and a fair bit of instructor assistance the 747 – 400 is on the deck. There is no luck, no flipping a coin, it’s all about pilot knowledge, experience and continuous training, that’s right re-testing.
Apply this competency-based philosophy to our public roads, you can see flying in a jet aircraft is by far the safest option. The many times I’ve been fortunate to experience the Qantas simulator has opened my mind to the benefits that professional training delivers. Sadly Government beaurocrat’s like to pull the handbrake on driver training claiming It make’s drivers over confident.
So it’s ok to have highly experienced and confident pilots controlling our skies, yet we have incompetent drivers who only managed a reverse park to get their drivers licence. Governments know their system for driver assessment, learning and competency is wrong, yet they keep selling the general public the same old story.
Could it be they see road carnage as good business with the medical industry paying billions in taxes? You know the political attitude – These people need customers to stay in business so a bit of road carnage generates cash flow, employment and taxes.
Cynical as this may seem, Government statistics for road trauma don’t lie compared to airline safety. It’s comforting to know as I write this column that the highly experienced Virgin flight crew are planning a perfect landing in Sydney. Getting into a taxi, hanging on for dear life, praying for survival and mixing with untrained, unskilled drivers, for me I will continue to fly and stick to the race track where speeding is legal.
See ya in the fast lane.
Ian ‘Luffy’ Luff