Apr 8, 2010

Creative Flight?

"Aviation isn't a profession where you're supposed to be creative."
This statement in a recent conversation got me thinking. Largely I agree except when we pilots have a chance to creatively solve problems. Which is why I enjoy flying into smaller centers rather than the big cities. When the traffic volume is saturated like it is all the time at New York, Chicago, Toronto, etc.. there's little room for pilot creativity. Either the system has been configured to handle the situation and the controllers apply it as required - or not. There is little for the pilot to do except ensure the proper amount of fuel is on hand to deal with the new plan.

So when thunderstorms are sweeping across Chicago from the west, it's not unusual for traffic from Toronto and Montreal to be re-routed north around a line of storms then south to approach the airport.

But at a smaller center, the pilot has room to create his or her own solution.

Case in point: Toronto to Winnipeg - arriving in the afternoon of a scorching day just as a line of severe thunderstorms are roaring towards the city from the west. The airport will be completely engulfed at our arrival.

We remain at cruising altitude, pick our way across the top of the line to the west side, then enter a holding pattern and spiral down the back side. By the time we reach ten thousand feet the worst of the storms have swept over the airport and we land straight in from the northwest. It's a smooth ride all the way and we use much less fuel compared to deviating around the storms.

Getting a little creative sometimes adds a deeper sense of job satisfaction.


FlyCRJ said...

Very true. In some cases, there is better equipment on-board that allows you to navigate around such things too.

I know when I fly into Chicago O'Hare it is all or nothing. Either we get in or we go to our alternate.

When flying into Colorado Springs though, we have a few more options and can get "creative." Just watch out for the big mountain.



Aluwings said...

Speaking of better equipment on board - that's a pet bug of mine when it comes to handling thunderstorms. Weather radar is fine for strategic decisions in cruise and at high altitude, but once we're down in the thick of things maneuvering in the terminal area it can be pretty useless.

Stormscopes and now satellite radio transmissions of Nexrad (?) data give an even more accurate picture for up close, and personal ops in the terminal areas. For a few bucks I could install all this on my homebuilt aircraft and have better facilities than most airliners. I wonder if any airlines are going beyond the traditional wx radar equipment.

You can't be (successfully) creative without the proper tools.