Sleep is overrated

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rigpiggy
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Sleep is overrated

Post by rigpiggy » Wed Dec 26, 2018 10:38 am

Published under fair use from avweb

Sleep Is Underrated

PAUL BERGE

Time to quit worrying about flying inverted yield curves and stay awake long enough to reignite virtuous ire over the Piper Navajo pilot who allegedly fell asleep on a November trip between Tasmania and King Island, two places that, if you’re like me, you had to Google.

The backstory in a conch shell: The pilot drifted off, but not off-course … except inadvertently overflying the destination by 29 miles. Big flying deal, right? Who hasn’t done the same? When I was a low-time pilot in Hawaii, I was flying a Grumman to Kauai and managed to miss the island despite being awake and distracted by a passenger who kept asking if I really had a license. I did but still bypassed the only land mass in that stretch of ocean. Apparently, pilotage, the dying art of navigating by landmarks, isn’t best practiced over open water.

In my defense, Kauai’s not that large. Bigger than a poi basket but not, say, Australia. I wouldn’t have missed finding that island. Still, the passenger got all huffy-like when he pointed to Kauai well to our seven o’clock and approaching half-past six, while I insisted it was hiding behind a cloud at a quarter-to-twelve. I attribute this confusion to the difference between UTC and HST, adding he could take a boat home if he felt so strongly about gross navigational errors. He did.

Back to sleep, which is considered essential to a healthy pilot’s whatever, so why should we get judgmental over taking a restorative nap as the Tasmanian flier allegedly did? It’s not like he didn’t wake up. He did and gently arced back to his destination with--I’ll add in no one’s defense--plenty of fuel on board. How much I don’t actually know in terms of having the facts, but as any loose interpretation of FAR 91.167--or the Tasmanian equivalent--makes clear, “Plenty of fuel includes enough to reach the intended destination and taxi thereafter to an FBO that’ll accept out-of-town checks.”

Running out of fuel is so passé that such incidents (or accidents) rarely make it into IFR magazine’s annual Stupid Pilot Tricks review. As the tired adage goes, “When it comes to operating on aviation fuel, there are those who have run out of it, and those who get caught running out.” Show of hands: How many readers have run a tank dry and lived to not tell anyone about it? Thought so. Your secrets are safe … with mine.

Enough with skinny fuel scenarios and back to the pros and cons of sleeping enroute. While “good safety practices” include remaining awake for most of the flight, it’s not entirely uncommon for pilots or air traffic controllers to drop their lids for just a second, only to lurch wide-eyed and foggy-brained, struggling from the arms of Morpheus while pleading, “Where in blazes am I?” For a controller, that’s particularly weird. I know, because I’ve dwelt in the land of Nod on midnight watches.

I worked in four ATC facilities (Center and tower/approach) in my inglorious FAA career, and two were open 24/7 like a Las Vegas tattoo/wedding parlor. Shift work messes with all that good sleep rhythm stuff the FAA promotes, so by the waning hours of the mid-shift (8 AM) my controller brain was mushier than usual, especially when alone, working clearance delivery, ground, tower and approach/departure control.

And, adding to the charms of all-night ATC, the secondary radar (transponder processing) would frequently go down for routine maintenance--greasing the approach gate’s relative bearings and such. Luckily, traffic was usually light, so reverting to 1950s semi-radar conditions was no big thrash. Plus, at night the freight dogs came out to play, and there were no better participants than cargo pilots--awake or otherwise.

Long ago everyone wrote checks, millions per day, and all that floating paper had to get to far-flung banks for payment. Enter the check-hauling freight dogs in anything fast with wings and no back seats. Des Moines, Iowa, was a freight hub, where at 3 a.m., the empty radar scope would pulse with handoffs from eight points on the compass. Mostly twin Cessnas, Cheyennes and a Lear that launched from Minneapolis into the stratosphere, then throttled back and dropped like an ICBM lawn dart at speeds exceeding daytime 91.117 limits. Night freighters seemed to know two power settings: full and idle. And they all arrived at once, because they had to land, taxi to the ramp, swap mailbags and call for their outbound clearances while taxiing out again to the nearest runway. And they were always ready to go, launching in turn-on-course starbursts into the night.

Inbound, they’d request direct to the nearest runway regardless of winds. As with the FARs, the rules of physics didn’t apply to the night hawks, and once I learned that they would provide better self-separation and sequencing than I could from the tower/approach, I just sat back and said, “Approved … follow company (aircraft), cleared visual approach, clear to land, taxi to the ramp.”

If weather dictated using the ILS, they’d request slam-dunk intercepts at the marker, sometimes inside of that. I obliged. Procedures turns (rare) resembled crop-duster reversals rather than time-sucking PTs. This was ATC improv night rock-and-roll. And, one night a somnolent freight pilot in a Twin Cessna pulled a Tasmania fly-over until 30 miles north of Des Moines, the intended airport, when the sound of a sputtering engine must’ve caused him to wake, switch tanks and stammer, “Airport in sight!” Not off course, just slightly off the nighttime rhythm.

By dawn, the blue-jeaned rodeo-fliers would vanish to wherever sleep-deprived freight dogs went when the sun shines, and the daylight regs returned as I’d stumble from the tower, flop into my pickup and catch a steering-wheel nap, driving home.

Miss it? Nope. At least not the unhealthy ATC lifestyle, but I miss the rush of hell-bent traffic blasting through our otherwise FAA-prescribed skies. Too bad no one writes checks anymore. PayPal isn’t nearly as inspiring, plus, these days I can’t stay awake past 9:30.

JP International 'Checklist for JPI
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confusedalot
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Re: Sleep is overrated

Post by confusedalot » Wed Jan 09, 2019 6:32 pm

:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

Ah yessss.......aviation is such an easy job.

CEO's and the general public hanging around the coffee machine think so anyways.

Go into aviation with low wages and work around the clock, or go into IT and start off with a ton of money and breaks every half hour on a 9 to 5 day?

Hummmm........


Lemme think about it.........
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cap41
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Re: Sleep is overrated

Post by cap41 » Wed Jan 09, 2019 7:06 pm

confusedalot wrote:
Wed Jan 09, 2019 6:32 pm
:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

Ah yessss.......aviation is such an easy job.

CEO's and the general public hanging around the coffee machine think so anyways.

Go into aviation with low wages and work around the clock, or go into IT and start off with a ton of money and breaks every half hour on a 9 to 5 day?

Hummmm........


Lemme think about it.........
Why did you go into aviation??? Surely you must have understood the economics of the industry? Seems stupid to me.
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confusedalot
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Re: Sleep is overrated

Post by confusedalot » Thu Jan 10, 2019 9:43 pm

cap41 wrote:
Wed Jan 09, 2019 7:06 pm
confusedalot wrote:
Wed Jan 09, 2019 6:32 pm
:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

Ah yessss.......aviation is such an easy job.

CEO's and the general public hanging around the coffee machine think so anyways.

Go into aviation with low wages and work around the clock, or go into IT and start off with a ton of money and breaks every half hour on a 9 to 5 day?

Hummmm........


Lemme think about it.........
Why did you go into aviation??? Surely you must have understood the economics of the industry? Seems stupid to me.
Here we go. Another intellectual justifying substandard conditions for aviation workers. If you don't mind, and I can see you do, I will continue to promote the light side instead of the dark side.

To answer your question, got into an airplane as a student 42 years ago. Started working 39 years ago. Was not easy then, but things looked a whole lot better so there was no reason to expect a crappy life. Recessions and the fallout have a strange way of dramatically altering the path of life.

Stupid? OK, guilty of not having access to the crystal ball.

There is no rational reason to expect people in this business to live substandard lives.

But hey, I am stupid. Sure fooled a whole lot of people after 4 decades. They actually let me do a bunch of stuff.
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Boreas
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Re: Sleep is overrated

Post by Boreas » Fri Jan 11, 2019 12:30 am

Great read rigpiggy.

I've always liked flying in the wee hours, although not every night of course. Something about being up when everyone else is asleep. The peace and quiet - enroute at least - always puts me in a contemplative mood...
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HiFlyChick
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Re: Sleep is overrated

Post by HiFlyChick » Sun Jan 13, 2019 2:38 am

Great read, Piggy!

I always thought it'd be hilarious if the glossy pictures on the flight college brochures of the handsome young, smiling pilots with their clean white shirts were replaced with real photos. Never did the regular freight dog run, but there was always lots of other midnight charters to keep me groggy. One in particular that I probably still have the scar under my hairline to remember it by...
<click> Flash to a photo of me at 1 am sitting on the ground under the engine of a King Air with my hand to my head trying to stench the blood flow, while the wing cover drapes artistically over my shoulder. Those lovely prop blades are almost invisible when you're staring into a bright light and rushing to get the covers on. When I let out a blood-curdling scream, my co-pilot ran over, saw all the blood and gasped, "What can I do?!" To which I replied, "Get the covers on quick - the wings are frosting up!!!"
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Re: Sleep is overrated

Post by C-GGGQ » Sun Jan 13, 2019 6:09 am

Hahaha. Grandfather switched from flying a 3 bladed King Air for years to flying a 4 bladed. Both him and the copilot walked into the prop on walk around cause they were used to pointing 1 blade down and easily ducking underneath.
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