March 2, 2012
By Dan Namowitz
Any pilot who has ever dropped a pen into the abyss beneath the seats while copying a complicated clearance immediately learns one of aviation’s overarching lessons: Carry more pens.
The trauma of such experiences has caused aircraft owners to hoard pens from anywhere and everywhere, until the Baron bristles with Bics. Don’t bother trying to write with the pens found rolling around in the baggage compartment; it’s just a graveyard for inkless implements.
Pen failure ranks right up there as an aggravating aviation systems malfunctions. Fortunately it has the same remedy as many others: redundancy.
Talk about redundancy in ground school, and the discussion runs to topics like independent aircraft electrical and ignition systems, and how they promote safety. Your aircraft may have alternate static sources for pitot-static instruments, and other redundant designs features.
Redundancy is an aviation ethic that goes far beyond design elements or a pilot’s promise to profusely populate his pockets with pens.
That flip-flop frequency selector on your com radio lets you set up the next frequency and manage using two radios while workload is low. Then, during a takeoff climb or inside the marker, just press the button and talk. Handheld radios and nav units stand ready if the hard-wired system fails.
That airway intersection up ahead is identifiable with DME, but that failing, you can still identify it from a crossing VOR radial on your No. 2 nav.
Redundancy can save your life if a flight control instrument grinds to a halt, as partial-panel training on interpretation of primary and secondary sources of attitude information teaches.
Redundancy is everywhere in communications. The magic words “Readback correct” ensure that you are cleared to BGM, not BGD, from BGR.
Filing an alternate is meteorologically mandated redundancy.
A second engine is major redundancy for crossing big water or “inhospitable terrain.” Can you handle a sudden nonredundancy and its unhappy byproduct, asymmetrical thrust?
Flashlights and batteries—bring lots; the one you reach for first won’t work, guaranteed.
Back in the airport parking lot, you frisk yourself in a vain search for car keys (only to find more pens). The keys are locked inside the SUV, still dangling from the ignition.
Put a redundant copy of that key in your pocket before leaving the house again.
Earning an instrument rating is guaranteed to be one of the most challenging, rewarding, and fun projects a pilot takes on during a lifetime in aviation. Each week, this series looks at the IFR experience from a new perspective. Catch up on what you may have missed in the IFR Fix archive.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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