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CA below Mins, Part II-CA lands

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Wing, Nosewheel, Whatever
Dec 19, 2001
In Part I we left off with the Captain having just gotten something in sight, continuing the approach and landing. The question is properly posed at this point, "What would you do now Mr. F.O.?"

This is a different question that demands a totally different approach. If you’re on the ground, no one’s life is in danger and you can talk to the Captain about why he did what he did. You will likely be told that the Captain responds by saying that he does this all the time, it’s never a problem and you should just sit there and watch how it’s done at the airlines.

Your interviewer will want to know what you will do after hearing that. Your best next move would be to counter the Captain more firmly by saying that you will not permit this sort of thing to happen with you aboard the airplane and it had better not happen again.

You may be asked whether you would talk to management about it given the obviously flagrant illegality of his claim. A considered response would indicate that at this point, you’ve only seen this happen once. The Captain’s been caught and challenged. He may well be feeling pretty stupid about doing what he just did and he may be trying to cover it with bravado. For all you know, this is the one and only time in his life he’s ever done anything like this. Going to the Chief Pilot at this stage would be ill-considered and premature and could create problems for you with other Captains. The call to management shouldn’t happen until you’ve seen it happen more than once and even then, if there’s a union present I’d go shopping for advice from your status representative or a professional standards committee member before running to the phone.

This is, as I hope you can see, a complicated situation that requires care in resolving. The only real trouble is that you don’t have much time. This is NOT a "gimme" question. The airplane could crash if the solution is badly implemented, or worse, not implemented at all.

Just because something is said it at an AirInc seminar DOES NOT mean it’s correct. You may well have to take control of the aircraft but you need to know more before you can jump to this conclusion about the most appropriate steps to take and when to take them.

Answers that sound canned or contrived must be avoided. The reason is that if you are pressed you will not really have strong reasons to present for taking the actions you say you’d take except that the airplane is about to crash. If you’ll recall I just proved that this is NOT the case. If it takes you 8.6 seconds to descend 100’ then it takes over 17 seconds to crash if you stay on the glideslope. While that is certainly a threat to safety I would submit that it isn’t worth getting in a fight over the controls until you’re certain it’s the only way out.

One answer that is commonly offered up in a converastion about this question that I take serious issue with is the assertion that declaring a missed approach on the radio cancels an approach clearance. THIS IS NOT TRUE!!! I have heard this tactic expressed quite a bit and I am distressed by the number of people who seem to think that this is the best, most constructive way to solve the problem. It is NOT! In fact, calling a missed approach does NOTHING to confront the real problem which is that the airplane will crash in 17 seconds if no one does anything about it.

To see why this is such a poor solution all you have to do is put yourself at an uncontrolled airport where the only people there are your company’s weather observer/ramper and the security guard sleeping in his truck outside the terminal. If you declare a missed approach who is going to hear it? Moreover, if that’s ALL you do, will that stop the airplane from proceeding right into the ground?

The answer to the first question is that no one will hear your missed approach declaration and nothing about your situation will change. That brings us to the answer to the second question, which is that without a positive intervention on your part, the airplane will hit the ground. You simply have to do something more than talk on the radio.

There is another aspect to blurting out a missed approach call on the radio that needs to be addressed here. What if you’ve misread the approach plate and you’re not really at the missed approach point and facing imminent danger. If you’re an inexperienced FO you might do something like that you know.

Finally, it is often suggested that hitting the G/A button on the throttles will goad the offending Captain into doing the right thing. However, this will most likely do nothing more than reconfigure the flight director to the go-around mode in most commuter airliners. It might do more than that in a more automated aircraft but the point is that whatever it does, it will be unexpected. Not only would this be disruptive it could prove monumentally confusing to the pilot who doesn’t know WHY the flight director (or the entire airplane) has just launched itself into G/A mode as he’s trying to make sense of what the FO is telling him about doing a missed approach. My advice is to avoid messing with flight director/autoflight modes during critical phases of flight close to the ground. If you’re going to do anything unannounced to the flight director at all, disable it and hand fly on raw data until you get the airplane going where you want it to go. There are very few things more confusing than a flight director commanding a pitch and bank that you can’t figure out.

I hope this helps some folks out. I think it's important to keep in mind, as you confront these questions in your interview preparation, that if someone wants to offer you a simplified cookbook answer to a question, they’ve probably got it wrong to some extent.


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Why thank you!

I'm hoping to be around a bit more. I just bought a new house though. THAT might present a problem at times.

Bustin Minimums

Pull the gear out from under him.

It doesn't unstabilize the approach much in a jet, it causes a very loud horn to blow and it is generally the first or second call out on a missed approach. "Go Around'- "Go Around power" Positive rate gear up!

Kinda hard to explan a gear up landing. The gear handle is on the right side of the airplane on most transport aircraft. You wanna land, go ahead! We wont't roll very far.
I suppose you could do that

But it still doesn't go to solving the problem at hand. If that's all you do (and I'm pretty sure that's not what you're suggesting) you're still gonna hit the ground. That's what you absolutely cannot do.

When you're that close to the ground I think all the hiring folks are gonna agree that you will have to take control of the aircraft. The question they're asking is meant to elicit a response that describes precisely HOW you will do that. That's where your grey matter gets a workout and that's what they need to see.

Look, there are lots of creative "solutions" that dance around the fundamental issue of preventing an accident on the basis of the assumption that the Captain SURELY knows what he is doing and there must be some mistake. You are being asked how you would respond, in your capacity as an FO, to a situation in which command has been relegated to YOU - the entirelty of the reason for your presence in the cockpit! Make a command decision and fly the plane!!!

(Too) long time, no read

Hi TIS! Welcome back, it's good to see you active again. I've been hoping to see some new material from you on the boards. Enjoy the new house.

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