Thursday, October 30, 2008

OK, One More Ride

Hopefully you can indulge me one last motorcycle post before I return to our regularly scheduled aviation content; it turned out my riding season wasn't quite over yet.

The bike that we rode in the pictures from the last post is a 1988 BMW K75S. BMW K-Bikes, which include the K75, K100, K1, K1100, and K1200, are a series of sport-touring bikes featuring liquid-cooled inline engines that are famous for their durability. The first K-bike, the K100, was quite a departure from BMW's previous motorcycle designs when it was introduced in 1985; they'd built the brand on twin-cylinder horizontally opposed air-cooled motors not unlike small aircraft engines. The K100 was an instant hit. The next year, BMW introduced the K75, essentially identical to the K100 but with three cylinders instead of four, giving it a total displacement of 750 cc's instead of 1000 cc's. It was envisioned as a stripped-down, more affordable version of the K100. As the years went on, though, the K75 became even more popular than the K100. Its lighter weight gave it handling more on the sport side of "sport-touring," and the 3-cylinder engine was the smoothest motorcycle engine BMW (or arguably, any other manufacturer) ever produced. Today used K75s fetch a better price than K100s, but both are sought after and hold their value much better than other bikes their age.

The K75 pictured in the last post belongs to my brother Josiah. It used to belong to my dad, and it's the motorcycle I learned to ride on. I still ride it occasionally and always marvel at what a great bike it is, especially for one 20 years old. For the last year, I've kept my eye out for a good-priced K75 or K100. I like my little FZ600 but it's really designed for one thing, which it does very well: zipping around corners with one person on it. Touring is excruciating, as is riding 2-up (particularly for the passenger). When Dawn rode on the back of Josiah's K75 on our ride to Wisconsin, it was a revelation for her: this motorcycling thing is a lot more fun on a bike designed for 2-up touring! She indicated her openness to me buying a BMW. I kept an eye out, knowing the best deals are typically found in fall and winter.

Monday before last, I found a 1985 K100RS for sale in Aspen, Colorado, for a price significantly below bluebook. It had 64,000 miles on it, which would be a lot on most bikes but is actually average for BMWs this age; they've been known to last beyond 200,000 miles. I traded some emails with the owner, who indicated the bike had cosmetic issues but was mechanically sound. Unfortunately, I had to fly and wasn't able to get up to Aspen until [this past] Saturday afternoon; the owner already had someone coming to look at it Saturday morning. I told him to call me if they cancelled, and stashed a bag of riding & camping gear at the Minneapolis airport just in case.

Friday night, the owner called to tell me the other interested party had cancelled and I could come take a look if I wanted to. I jumpseated to Aspen via Denver on Saturday morning after I got off work. The bike was in better shape than I was expecting. After inspecting, riding, and buying the bike, I packed the included saddlebags and headed out around 3pm. I wanted to get to Denver that night, and was planning on taking US82 to I-70. The owner assured me that was the long way to Denver, and taking Independence Pass to Leadville would be much quicker. "The pass is clear," he told me.

A half hour later I yelped as the bike slipped and skidded out of control on a section of ice covered by wet snow. I eased off the throttle, concentrated on balancing while looking out at the road ahead, and somehow kept it upright until I rolled out of the shadows and back onto bare pavement. How horrible it would've been to drop the bike within my first hour of ownership! The pass wasn't remotely clear. There was snow and ice on every section not exposed to the sun. I was able to ride around most of it, and the rest I negotiated very carefully. Finally I reached the top, and with it a final sketchy section of ice with blowing snow on top. The road down the other side was perfectly clear; the ride to Leadville and then Denver was superb.

Sunday morning I set out from Denver at 7am. Denver itself was still surprisingly warm, but the eastern plains were chilled by a gusty north wind that grew more intense as I labored eastward. By the time I was 100 miles into Nebraska I was riding permanently heeled over, the gusts pushing me around in my lane. At 80 mph it was doable; every time I was forced to slow for traffic or construction the bike became increasingly hard to keep on the road. In Overton, 20 miles short of Kearney, I stopped for gas and had a tough time just riding an eighth of a mile at 30 mph. While at the service station a huge gust came up and nearly tipped my bike off the sidestand; more impressively, it visibly moved the gas pump. I checked the weather: Kearney was reporting gusts to 45, and Omaha was expecting gusts to 60. "This is nuts," I thought. I decided to quit for the day. Fortunately, there was a motel next to the gas station. Unfortunately, it was a near-exact replica of the Bates Motel, but in poorer repair. I survived by staying out of the shower; it was moldy, anyways.

Quitting early on Sunday left me nearly 600 miles from Minneapolis. I had hoped to be home Monday night; now I had doubts. The temperatures dipped well below freezing overnight; I contemplated a late departure and just trying for Des Moines before nightfall. Finally I decided to tough it out and simply stop often to warm up. It was 25 degrees F when I started riding at 7am on Monday morning. It was chilly enough just walking outside my motel room; it was incredibly cold at 70 mph. For the first several hours I stopped every 40 miles for coffee or to warm my hands under rest-stop hand dryers. By 10am, the temperature was above freezing and I was able to make good time. Between Omaha and Des Moines, it got up to a positively comfortable 41 degrees F. Once headed north on I-35, the temperatures started to drop again but by then I was on the home stretch and the cold didn't bother me as much. It was 35 degrees F when I rolled into Minneapolis at 5:30pm, having riden 580 miles for the day.

My new bike performed flawlessly. I was really impressed by its handling and comfort, not to mention relieved that it proved dependable. Dawn and I rode it a few nights ago (in balmy 40 degree weather!) and she likes it a lot too. Sadly I'll be putting the bike into storage for the winter this weekend; I think our Indian Summer is over and the cold is here to stay. The snow will be here before long; Minneapolis actually got flurries on Sunday. I've been reading our De-Ice Manual in cruise to get me back up to speed on those procedures; it's not going to be long before the deice pads of Minneapolis run red and green with glycol. Speaking of which, this seems likely a timely opportunity to discuss the JungleBus' de-ice/anti-ice systems. That'll be my next post. In the meantime I have one last short ride on Saturday before I put away the bikes and resign myself to the coming fury of the Minnesota winter.

Monday, October 20, 2008

October Ride

My one-week experience as a commuter made me glad that I don't do it full time, but it was entirely worth it to get the Saturday before last off. It was a beautiful autumn day in Minnesota, with clear skies and temperatures in the 70s. My dad and Dawn and I took advantage of the weather to get in one last motorcycle ride of the season, to southwest Wisconsin and back. My dad rode his BMW R1100, and I borrowed my brother's BMW K75 so Dawn could come along (my Yamaha has a tiny rear seat that limits two-up riding to short jaunts in town).

The 300 mile ride took us along the bluffs of the Mississippi River to Lake Pepin, through Wisconsin's hill country on twisting, roller-coaster back country roads, and back to the Twin Cities on a highway with fast sweeping curves through river valleys and hills. The fall colors weren't quite yet at peak but were still pretty spectacular at times. This is an area I fly over fairly often, and it's chock full of tantalizing-looking little twisty roads. It's too bad that our riding season is so short; I'm looking forward to next season so we can explore the area more.

Dawn took quite a few pictures from the back of my bike. Here are some of my favorites.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Commute to Work

If you arrive two hours before your flight as the airlines recommend - and you do, right? - it gives you plenty of time for people watching. Among the various subgroups of travelers you expect to find, there are almost always a few pilots standing around in uniform, often with pained expressions. Some of these may be "deadheading" - that is, being repositioned by their airline and getting paid for their time - but the majority are generally commuting to or from work on their own time. Commuting is the least favorite aspect of many pilots' lives, but is sometimes better than the alternative. The airline pilot's ability to live hundreds or even thousands of miles from his place of work is alternatively praised and bemoaned by those enduring the grind.

Very few airlines require their pilots to live at or near their domicile. They only require that pilots report for duty at the correct time and place; how to get there is up to the pilot. If you live in base, or within a hundred miles or so, you get to work just like everyone else: jump in your car (or as in my case, hop on the bus and train). Those who live outside driving distance are in the unique position of being able to fly to work, using their non-rev pass and jumpseating benefits. To an outsider, it all seems terribly convenient. After all, you could live anywhere in the world! What few realize is this travel is done on the pilot's own time, and is on a space-available basis. This adds considerably to the time and stress load of commuting.

The reasons that pilots commute to work are varied. For starters, airlines don't always put their hubs in places that pilots want to live. By its very nature, a hub will either be in a geographically central location ("flyover land") or one of the largest (and most expensive) coastal cities. Some people are happy to live in places like Detroit, Memphis, Newark, Houston, Dallas, Minneapolis, or Chicago - but some are not. Some people can afford to live in cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, or New York - but many cannot, especially on junior FO pay. For these pilots, commuting is the key to living better or more affordably.

Other pilots have put down deep roots in a community and do not care to move simply because they got a new job. Many have young families they do not wish to uproot. Some have spouses that refuse to move. For these pilots, commuting is the key to a happier family life.

Finally, some pilots didn't intend to commute but that's the hand that life dealt them. Some airlines - regionals especially - are notorious for opening and closing bases at the drop of a hat. Some airlines, faced with financial trouble, have abruptly withdrawn from what was once a primary market and crew base (ie USAirways and Pittsburg). When faced with an unstable situation, it would be foolishness to move around regularly at the whims of the airline. For these pilots, commuting provides a measure of stability to their lives.

These are all situation where the ability to commute can improve a pilot's quality of life, but of course commuting exacts its own toll on quality of life. The decision to commute involves carefully calculating precisely which option sucks less. To begin with, commuting is enormously draining on your free time. The flight times involved are the very least of it. There's the time spent in airports waiting for flights and in hotel rooms or crashpads waiting for your trip to begin. Most airlines have a "commuter clause" in their contract that require you have two flights with seats available that arrive before your show time; depending on the flight loads and frequencies along your route, this could result in commuting into domicile many hours or even days before your trip. You generally can't count on jumpseats unless you're flying on your own airline and are fairly senior, or have an odd route with little competition from other commuters. Weather can further complicate things. This all assumes a single-leg commute; if you make it a multi-leg commute with a connection through a busy hub, the time wasted and stress caused increase exponentially.

Commuting can further decrease quality of life by forcing a pilot to bid solely on the basis of "commutability." To a commuter, the only criteria to judge a trip by is report time and release time. The commuter looks for a late report time, so they can commute to their domicile in the morning, and an early release time, so they can hopefully make it home that night. All the other things that pilots typically bid for - pay, productivity, time off, weekends off, lack of circadian swaps - are utterly secondary. Only when you are ultra-senior in your seat can you hope for a line that's both commutable and good.

Commuting can be expensive. When you're junior and unable to hold a "commutable" schedule, you end up spending a lot of nights at your domicile before and after trips. You either pay $40-80 per night for a crew rate at a nearby motel, or get a crashpad shared with other commuters for $150-300 a month. If you're an unfortunate soul condemned to commuting to reserve - the ninth circle of Commuter Hell - you'll end up spending a truly depressing amount of time in your crashpad. Avoiding this situation has caused many commuters to defer upgrades or transitions to better-paying equipment until they could hold a line, another major cost.

Given all this, it makes sense to avoid commuting if at all possible. One solution I've seen from many pilots is refreshingly old-fashioned: commute by car, like everyone else! You can live quite a ways from your base and make it work; after all, we're usually talking one roundtrip per week. For reserve, you'll need to be a two-hour drive away from the airport. Even the most wretched places to live generally have nice places 100 miles away. You could work in Newark and live in upstate New York; you could work in Detroit and live in Ann Arbor. Many pilots live near a small airport that has regional flights to their domicile; if the flight loads merit, they fly; otherwise they drive. It's a nice hybrid method that makes commuting more palatable.

I've managed to avoid commuting for the most part. My first few months at Horizon, I was living in LA while on reserve up in Portland. As commutes go this was an easy one: multiple direct flights to Portland from Burbank (which I lived next to) and LAX, as well as tons of easy connecting flights on Southwest. All the same, sitting on reserve in a crashpad away from home was tough, and Dawn didn't see me nearly as much as she'd like to. That plus our lack of roots in LA, the lower cost of living in Portland, and having friends in the Pacific Northwest made the decision to move an easy one. When I was hired at NewCo, we moved specifically for the MSP base. It was tough to leave the PNW but getting closer to family was important to us. While the townhouse was for sale, though, I traveled between Minneapolis and Portland enough to qualify as a semi-commuter; seeing the heavy loads on that route made me glad I wasn't doing it full time or long term.

I wrote most of this post Monday morning at gate F4 in Minneapolis, attempting to get to Detroit to start a trip. Minneapolis-Detroit is one of the toughest commutes in RedCo's system. Although there are frequent flights between the two hubs, they're often packed and there are literally hundreds of other commuters vying for a limited number of jumpseats. Many of NewCo's pilots have done this commute for a few months until their seniority can hold a Minneapolis base; fortunately I held MSP from the very start as both a FO and Captain. I'm commuting this week on a one-time basis as the result of a trip trade I did last week. I was originally scheduled to work this weekend, but then the weather reports started indicating that I was going to miss the best weekend of the autumn. My dad mentioned he wouldn't mind doing one last motorcycle ride of the season, so I found a Detroit trip starting on Monday to trade for my Minneapolis trip starting Saturday. I had a spectacular ride through southwest Wisconsin with my dad and Dawn on Saturday, but Monday I paid the piper. The flights were all oversold, prompting me to list for a 8:30am flight to make my 3:00pm report time. That flight went out with full passengers and all cockpit jumpseats and extra flight attendant jumpseats full, and I still had two standbys stranded above me on the list. The 10:05 flight was shaping up the same way, and my last-chance 11:25 flight was even more oversold. I was picking up my phone, getting ready to make my "commuter policy" call to crew scheduling and beg for a positive space seat on the 11:25, when the gate agent called my name. A seat had opened up! I grabbed my bags and trudged down the jetway to hunt down the last few remaining bits of overhead bin space. I sighed in relief that I made it on, and gave silent thanks that I don't have to do this every week.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

JungleBus Systems Post: Hydraulics

I've mentioned a few times that NewCo's initial training program was a bit, ahem, basic, and that I felt somewhat underprepared in the area of systems knowledge when I first got on the line. Since then I've gone back and studied on my own a few times, but I still feel like I could benefit from a more intimate knowledge of JungleBus systems. In my experience, the best way to learn aviation knowledge is to teach it. With that in mind, I'll be writing occasionally posts on various JungleBus systems. They won't be in any particular order; today I've randomly chosen to begin with a dissertation on the Hydraulic System. Those with JungleBus experience are welcomed to add anything I forget or correct my mistakes. I hope that by next time I have recurrent ground school, I have a nice collection of posts to come back and read rather than poring through AOM-II for hours on end until my eyes bug out.

On most light planes, the hydraulic system is limited to powering the brakes and, in some cases, retractible landing gear. Once you get to airliner weights, though, you find that the forces involved often outstrip the ability of the human muscle to overpower. In these cases, engineers rely on hydraulic systems to do the grunt work. This is the case with many systems on the JungleBus, including all basic flight controls, spoilers, landing gear, brakes, nosewheel steering, and thrust reverser deployment. Notably missing are the flaps, which are hydraulically powered on many airliners but are electric on the JungleBus.

Hydraulic systems use a fluid under pressure to do work. This is possible because fluids are mostly incompressible. For a hydraulic system to work, you need a source of pressure (a pump), a closed system that remains leak-free under significant pressure, and enough fluid to pressurize the system to design pressure. Hydraulic systems have a number of failure nodes: pump failure, loss of power to the pump, loss of fluid, and physical damage to the plumbing so it's unable to hold pressure. For these reasons, aircraft engineers build multiple independent hydraulic systems into the airliners they design, usually with multiple sources of power for each system.

The JungleBus has three fully independent hydraulic systems. Systems 1 and 2 are normally pressurized by engine-driven pumps (EDPs), which are connected to their respective engine's accessory gearbox. They each have an electric hydraulic pump installed as backup in case of engine failure. System 3 is powered solely by an electric pump, with a second electric pump as backup. All three systems use Skydrol brand hydraulic fluid and are normally pressurized to 3000 psi. Most aircraft systems that use hydraulic power are powered by at least two of these systems, so the loss of one hydraulic system will not affect most other aircraft systems. Flight critical systems are powered by three systems, so in the highly unlikely event of two fully independent systems failing simultaneously, the crew will still have at least pitch and roll control.

Hydraulic System 1 is normally pressurized by a mechanical pump driven by the left engine's accessory gearbox. The pump takes fluid from the reservoir, which an accumulator keeps at slight positive pressure, and pressurizes the fluid before sending it through a filter and the plumbing to the various System 1 users. The return line routes the fluid through another filter and then either through a heat exchanger or directly to the reservoir, depending on fluid temperature. If the fluid reaches 100º C, a HYD 1 HI TEMP caution message is displayed on the EICAS. At 125º C, the Hydraulic Shutoff Valve (HSOV) automatically closes to isolate EDP 1 from System 1. The HSOV will also close automatically in case of engine failure to decrease drag on the engine and make a windmilling relight easier. The HSOV can also be closed manually via a guarded push button on the hydraulic panel.

In case of engine failure or EDP failure, System 1 can be pressured by Electric Hydraulic Pump 1, powered by alternating current from AC BUS 2. It is controlled by a 3-position switch on the hydraulic panel. With the switch OFF, the pump stays off; selecting ON causes the pump to run continuously regardless of conditions. The normal position is AUTO, which causes the pump to activate automatically in case of engine 1 failure or EDP failure. In AUTO mode, the electric hydraulic pump will also run concurrently with the EDP when the flaps are in any position greater than zero in flight, or on the ground when flaps are greater than zero and thrust levers are in takeoff/goaround position (TOGA) or groundspeed exceeds 50 kts. The idea is to have both engine-driven and electric pumps running during takeoff and landing.

Hydraulic System 1 has the following users:
  • Elevator (Left-Hand outboard actuator only)
  • Rudder (upper actuator)
  • Spoilers (LH & RH, panels 2, 3, and 4)
  • Thrust Reverser (Engine 1)
  • Brakes (outboard only)
  • Emergency/Parking Brake
Hydraulic System 2 is normally powered by EDP 2, which is driven by the right engine. Backup is provided by Electric Hydraulic Pump 2, powered by AC BUS 1. It has the following users:
  • Elevators (LH & RH inboard actuators)
  • Ailerons (LH & RH inboard actuators)
  • Spoilers (LH & RH, panels 1 and 5)
  • Thrust Reverser (Engine 2)
  • Brakes (inboard only)
  • Nosewheel Steering
  • Landing Gear
  • Emergency/Parking Brake
The function of Hydraulic System 2, including the AUTO mode logic of Electric Hyd Pump 2, is virtually identical to System 1. One difference is that the Electric Hyd Pump 2 will also activate on the ground if the left engine is running and the parking brake is released or flaps extended beyond zero. The reason for this is single-engine taxi; we normally taxi on the left engine only, but obviously need nosewheel steering and both brake systems powered. Theoretically, they will be if Electric Hyd Pump 2 is left on AUTO and you taxi on the left engine. If you were to taxi on the right engine only, however, all the System 1 users (including outboard brakes) would be unpowered. For this reason, and in case the AUTO mode system logic should fail, NewCo single-engine taxies with both Electric Hyd Pumps turned ON regardless of which engine is running.

System 1 and 2 don't have any common points where fluid can migrate, but there is a mechanical connection via the Power Transfer Unit, or PTU. This is basically an extra pump used to pressurize part of System 2; it is motored by hydraulic pressure in System 1. The only purpose of the PTU is to facilitate extension and retraction of the landing gear. To operate, it needs System 1 to be pressurized, and there must be fluid in System 2. It is controlled by a 3-position "OFF-AUTO-ON" knob, which is almost always left in AUTO. In this position, system logic will turn on the PTU if the right engine or EDP 2 fails when the flaps are greater than zero. It's essentially there to quickly raise the landing gear if the right engine fails just after takeoff and Electric Hyd Pump 2 fails or isn't supplying enough pressure to the landing gear. Note that the PTU is useless to raise or extend the landing gear in case of System 2 fluid loss; in this case the crew must extend the gear using a freefall procedure. There is no way to retract the gear with no fluid in System 2.

Hydraulic System 3 is essentially an emergency backup system to ensure critical flight controls remain powered in case of a catastrophic simultaneous failure of Systems 1 and 2. It is pressurized by one electric pump (Electric Hyd Pump 3A) with an additional electric pump (Electric Hyd Pump 3B) for backup. Pump 3A is controlled by an OFF-ON knob on the hydraulic panel, with no automation involved. It gets its power from the AC ESS bus, which remains powered in an electrical emergency. Pump 3B has a 3-position OFF-AUTO-ON knob; in AUTO position it will activate whenever Pump 3A fails. Pump 3B is powered by AC BUS 2. System 3 powers the following hydraulic users:
  • Elevator (RH outboard actuators)
  • Rudder (lower actuator)
  • Ailerons (LH & RH outboard actuators)
System 3 has two dedicated valves to avoid overload in case of electrical emergency. The Unloader Valve temporarily unloads Pump 3A during its start-up to avoid spikes in power consumption. The Flow Limiter Valve limits the amount of flow coming from Pump 3A as electrical loads approach critical levels during an electrical emergency. Flight controls may be sluggish but control will be retained.

The Multi-Function Display (MFD) in the flight deck can bring up a Hydraulic Synoptic Page. It displays hydraulic fluid quantity, temperature, and pressure for all three systems and shows the status of all engine-driven and electric hydraulic pumps, plus the PTU. Finally, the Synoptic Page displays a handy list of all hydraulic users, organized by system. This, in case of hydraulic system failure, the pilots can see at a glance which aircraft systems will be affected.

You can see that the JungleBus could suffer multiple hydraulic failures and the most critical systems will be unaffected. Either engine failure should not affect any of the three systems. Complete System 1 failure would leave the pilots with three of four elevator actuators, all four aileron actuators, one of two rudder actuators, two of six roll spoilers, two of four ground spoilers, one of the two thrust reversers, and two of four brakes. Complete System 2 failure would still leave powered two of four elevator actuators, two of four aileron actuators, both rudder actuators, four of six roll spoilers, two of four ground spoilers, one thrust reverser, and two of four brakes. A combined System 2 + System 3 failure would leave the ailerons unpowered but you'd still have one rudder actuator and four of six roll spoilers for roll control. The only catastrophic combination, of course, is an uncontained engine failure or similarly violent event that results in failure of all three systems a la United 232. Of course, certification standards have improved considerably since then to ensure the physical separation and protection of hydraulic system components. That's good because, despite its smaller size, the JungleBus is just as dependent on hydraulics as the DC-10.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Good FO, Bad FO

When I wrote the original "Good Captain, Bad Captain" post in June of 2005, I'd been a FO at Horizon for just over a year. By that time I had a pretty good idea of what to look for in a Captain, and my thinking hasn't changed much since. Since then I've spent about 3 years in the right seat, which gave me enough time to think about what makes a good First Officer. I often asked Captains I flew with who they considered good FOs and why, and some of the problems they'd encountered with FOs in the past. My six months in the left seat hasn't really given me any new insight into what makes a good FO, but has given me time to appreciate what a joy it is to fly with an excellent FO. Here's the criteria I measure an FO by:

A good FO knows his job well. He knows his maneuvers, flows, calls, and checklists like second nature; he also has a strong grasp on aircraft systems. Obviously brand new FOs won't quite measure up to this standard, but the good ones get up to speed quickly. When an airline's training program falls short - as it does at NewCo - a good FO will seek the answers from check airmen, line captains, and the source materials. A good FO is inquisitive and learning something new every trip.

A good FO keeps their Captain in the loop. This is, of course, merely the reverse of a good Captain keeping their FO in the loop. A two pilot crew is really only functioning as a crew if each pilot knows what the other is doing. Sometimes the duties are so self-explanatory that little verbal explanation is required. In situations where significant technique is involved - night visual approaches in the mountains, for example - I keep up a steady diologue explaning what I'm doing to the other guy. I really appreciate it when they do the same for me. I don't have to guess what they're thinking, and can devote more time to my own duties rather than constantly monitoring theirs.

A good FO is a chameleon. Although the airlines don't talk about this for fear of encouraging passivity, adaptability is a key aspect of an FOs job. Every Captain has their own style, techniques, and quirks. A good FO will figure out what they are early in the trip and adapt accordingly. This doesn't mean he should condone non-standard flying; there's a lot of room for variance while still complying with the book. It does mean the FO makes the Captain's life easier and allowing him to focus on the big picture by complementing the Captain's style rather than clashing with it.

A good FO will speak up when his Captain crosses the line. A FO has to choose their battles wisely; nitpicking everything a Captain does will only result in an agitated Captain who's not listening to their FO. When the Captain is clearly operating outside the bounds of standardization and safety, though, it's time to speak up - clearly and forcefully. Like I mentioned in Good Captain, Bad Captain, this is really an awkward situation because the Captain is your superior and you're his subordinate. Saying "no" to something is essentially insubordination - which others may subsequently judge to be justified or not. It's one of the toughest things to do as an FO, but too many airplanes have flown on to their doom with the FO or SO fully aware that something's wrong but too intimidated to say anything.

The flip side to all this is Captainitis. That's the airline term for the malady that creates "Right Seat Captains" who attempt to do the real Captain's job for him. Every once in a while you see an FO who's just itching to upgrade and has developed a rather premature command attitude from the right seat. They'll make decisions unilaterally or hector the Captain to make decisions they like, impinge on the Captain's flows and other duties, and fly just enough outside the book to assert their command of the aircraft. Horizon had a few FOs who were notable for Captainitis; most had been in the right seat for five or six years. There's a certain point at which you know the aircraft and your job and the Captain's job so well that you're plainly qualified to upgrade, but are just waiting for your number to come up. That's frustrating, especially at regional airlines where you're basically stuck until you log enough PIC time. I can understand how that frustration can become Captainitis. Furthermore, some weak Captains encourage Captainitis by being passive and indecisive, essentially abdicating their role to an FO who's hungry for a bit of authority.

Most of my FOs so far have been good, with a few truly excellent ones. That's all the more remarkable in that nearly everyone I've flown with was new to both NewCo and the JungleBus. Most had been FOs at other airlines; many had also been Captains. That experience carries over well to other airlines and aircraft. I've only had "problems" with two FOs, who represented two extremes of the scale. One was fresh off of IOE and this was his first Part 121 airline job; he was very silent, passive, and had a lot of trouble with directional control on takeoff and landing. I only had him for two legs; I addressed the problems after his leg and gave him some pointers. He was genuinely thankful for the advice and asked me a few other questions.

The other FO had a case of Captainitis; he'd been a six-year FO at Comair and felt more than ready to upgrade, even with a mere hundred hours in the JungleBus. Most of the trip it was present only in small things like mannerisms and body language. The last leg into MSP, though, the Captanitis manifested itself in a big way. My FO was landing on 35, and floated the landing slightly. I had briefed beforehand that I would take control once the airplane was slowed to around taxi speed. While we were still around 80 knots, tower told us "Right turn when able, hold short 30L on W10, tower 126.7" I started to respond to the instructions; without warning my FO jammed on the brakes and inputted full right rudder, attempting to make the turnoff at Y. That's not a 90 degree turnoff, but it's sharper than a normal high-speed turnoff. It happened too quickly for me to intervene; the g-forces threw me into the left side of my seat. When we were parked at the gate, I asked my FO what exactly was he thinking on that landing. He gave me a quizical look, so I told him it had really alarmed me and it was pretty non-standard for the FO to make the turnoff, especially without it being briefed beforehand. He tried to brush it off: "Oh, I did that all the time at Comair!" I told him to leave the turnoffs to the Captains, and if he did something like that with me again it'd be the last time I'd let him land. He looked pretty chastened and made a quick exit. Afterward, I wondered if perhaps I should've addressed his Captainitis earlier in the trip. It would've been a quiet trip but I doubt he would've done something so audacious afterward.

That's the approach Dave at FL390 took recently. His FO was exhibiting signs of Captainitis and had done several things that, while fairly minor, indicated at least some disregard for their company's aircraft manual. On the second day of their trip, Dave gave him "the talk." There are a few unwritten rules for "the talk" which Dave demonstrated in his post. First, it's something you do in private. Being corrected by the Captain is embarassing enough for a FO without others witnessing it. In the flight deck after the parking check is complete but before the cockpit door is opened is an ideal time. Secondly, you use "the book" to point out exactly where the FO erred. Simply listing your pet peeves allows the FO to think you're just a grouch who likes things done his way; backing yourself up with company policy shows that you both know the policy and expect your FO to know and follow it. Finally, don't expect your FO to like you very much after "the talk." It'll probably be a quiet trip. That's ok - what's important is that your FO is flying safely and by the book. If the poor performance persists, then you move onto the next level by getting the union's professional standards commitee involved - or as an absolute last resort, the chief pilot's office. Fortunately, that's extremely rare. Most FOs are very good at what they do, and they make the Captain's job immeasurably more pleasant.