By Rob Finfrock

In addition to his position as chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Christopher Hart is also a pilot with approximately 500 hours of Citation time. He led off Saturday’s session at CJP2015 with a candid discussion about criminalization by media and the public following aviation accidents, and the need for a higher standard of behavior for flight crews.

NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart receives the CJP Crystal Eagle award from CJP Executive Director Col. Jon Huggins, for Hart's participation at the 2015 CJP Convention

NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart receives the CJP Crystal Eagle award from CJP Executive Director Col. Jon Huggins, for Hart’s participation at the 2015 CJP Convention

“We need more robust ways to ensure we not only have skills, but also professionalism in judgment,” Hart said, pointing to recent, high profile airline accidents including the 2009 crash of a Colgan Air Q400 near Buffalo, NY.

Hart also discussed as the pros and cons from ever-increasing flight deck automation. “I’m concerned that when we automate too much, that we can actually undermine professionalism because now you don’t have any job satisfaction,” he said.

Following the chairman’s presentation, returning CJP favorite Neil Singer led two discussions about operational safety on the show’s first day, with the first presentation focused on landing performance on contaminated runways.

“Even the FAA acknowledges that, when we start talking about [runway] contamination, assumptions aren’t borne out in the real world,” he noted. “The landing distances in the manufacturer-supplied AFM signify that a test pilot flew your airplane, crossing at exactly 50 feet over the threshold, exactly at Vref and touching down more or less exactly on the 1,000 foot markers, and aggressively initiated full braking.

“I think you have to be better than a test pilot to achieve those AFM distances,” he added. “It’s widely recognized that we must have some kind of safety margin applied for day to day operations.”

Singer followed this with an in-depth examination of aerodynamic effects on Citation aircraft, including the various ways that use of flaps on takeoff affects rate of climb and engine-out climb performance – including some that may seem counterintuitive at first.

“When an obstacle limiting your takeoff weight is very close to the end of the runway, sometimes a higher flap setting takeoff is better,” Singer said, recalling a recent trip to Eagle Creek Airpark (EYE) near Indianapolis.

“It was a hot summer day, and with flaps 0 we could not depart heavier than 8,103 lbs and still clear this obstacle if we lost the engine,” he described. “At flaps 15, however, we could put an extra 300 lb. on the airplane; even though our engine-out climb performance would be even worse, we would break ground sooner, and the geometry would ultimately prevail.”

The afternoon wrapped up with talks by recently retired air traffic controller Alan Gorski, discussing the proper way for pilots to interact with ATC. That includes when and how to use the term “unable.”

“If you can’t do it, say it,” he said. “Just offer a reason. Don’t simply say, ‘two-Yankee-uniform, unable;’ have you heard what controllers call pilots when they’re off-frequency? Don’t be one of those. Tell ATC, succinctly, why you can’t perform that instruction, so they have a clearer picture.”

That was followed by an examination of NEXRAD and its proper use by flight crews in avoiding potentially catastrophic encounters with convective weather, by perhaps the foremost expert on the matter, Dr. David Strahle.


Among the topics Strahle discussed were discrepancies in how various weather reporting services use different color grids to denote storm severity – “on ForeFlight, there are 26 colors denoting [storm severity]. Two closely-matched colors make it very difficult to determine the important difference between them!” – And, several real-world examples of the dangers of flying too close near storms.

In addition to these safety presentations, CJP2015 also featured type-specific working groups for pilots to discuss operating issues specific to their type with their peers, as well as sessions with avionics and engine manufacturers.