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“Slip slidin’ away,” was the chorus of a Paul Simon hit from the 60s. During this time of year, it is what airplanes frequently do on runways and taxiways. In the winter weather, pilots operating north of about 35° north latitude, particularly near the Great Lakes and other bodies of water, will also be dealing with ice accumulating on their aircraft. They will do what they can to get this ice, “slip-slidin” off of their airplanes as they activate their anti-ice and de-ice devices.  The ice on the runways and taxiways and the airborne ice is a major issue for pilots as both types of ice can lead to crumpled piles of aluminum, along with injuries or death.

A few days ago a Southwest Airlines jet, while taxing for departure at MacArthur Airport on Long Island, went “slip-sliding away.” Although the taxiway was not ice covered it was still dark, and it was raining. As most pilots will attest, taxing large aircraft at night on a slippery surface is extremely challenging. Yesterday a Russian airliner landing in Moscow during a snowstorm departed the runway at a very high speed resulting in four people dead and four injured. The airplane was broken into several pieces and will be headed for the beer can factory. The airplane did not “disintegrate” as the Associated Press article indicated. Disintegration of a large aircraft is only marginally feasible.

Between now, January 30, 2012, and March 31, 2013, several hundred aircraft will go “slip sliding” away” as the pilot loses control of his air machine. In January 1975 I landed a Learjet at Montréal’s Dorval airport. The cold front had just passed through, the runways and taxiways were snow and ice covered, and the wind was at 25 knots gusting to 40. After turning off the runway the aircraft’s heading was then 90° to the direction of the wind. In a split second the airplane turned 90° as it responded to its aerodynamic inclination and weather-vaned directly into the wind. Later in my career, after landing an Emery Airfreight Boeing 727 at Dayton, Ohio I experienced the exact same encounter. Freezing rain had created a glaze of ice and the braking action was “nihil,” rather than poor, as the tower was reporting.

Landing a large jet aircraft, for that matter, any aircraft during reduced visibility, such as in a snowstorm, with gusty crosswinds, and on ice covered runway at LaGuardia Airport is probably more challenging than landing in the Hudson River on a nice day. Even Sully Sullenberger would likely agree with this premise. Winter weather aviation operations require extremes diligence, awareness, and skill. Proper use of airborne de-ice and anti-ice procedures should be reviewed by all pilots. If your air machine has been deiced prior to takeoff, it is prudent to be 100% sure that there is no ice or snow adhering to any of the control surfaces prior to takeoff. Far too many aircraft and passengers have come to a sad end in an aircraft that was not properly deiced.

Quite interestingly, we will note that the rest of Paul Simon’s chorus lyrics are as follows: “slip slidin’ away, the near you get to the destination, the more you are slip slidin’ away.”  May all your aviation experiences be devoid  of any, “slip slidin’away.”

This blog is prepared by Allen Morris/a.k.a. Ace Abbott, author of The Rogue Aviator: In the Back Alleys of Aviation (www.therogueaviator.com)  and Dead Tired: Pilot Fatigue- Aviation’s Insidious Killer (www.deadtiredpilots.com)




Female Fighter Pilot Breaks Gender Barriers

Col. Jeannie Flynn Leavitt is not only a decorated fighter pilot; she has broken
through gender barriers few thought possible. She was recently named the Air Force’s
first female wing commander, commanding 5,000 airmen at Seymour Johnson Air Force
Base in North Carolina.
Twenty years ago, when she had completed part of her training, she was told that
if she wanted to be fighter pilot, she would be the first and would draw attention.
“I said, ‘Well, I don’t want the attention, but I want to fly fighters more than
anything,'” she responded.
She knew she was entering a world dominated by male swagger. Think “Top Gun” – “The
plaque for the alternates is down in the ladies room.”
And that attitude was not just in the movies. Even the Pentagon brass once argued
that male bonding was critical.
“If you want to make a combat unit ineffective, add some women to it,” retired Gen.
Robert Barrow, the former commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, had said at a 1991
hearing before Congress.
Like it or not, though, they were ordered to change by the Secretary of Defense.
And now, Leavitt and others have inspired a new generation. There are currently
700 female pilots in the Air Force and 60 female combat pilots.
“Regardless of your gender,” Capt. Patricia Nadeau said. “I think everyone’s goingto look up to her.”
Leavitt, 46, has logged more than 2,700 hours – 300 in combat over Iraq and Afghanistan
-andd dropped bombs on enemy targets and avoided enemy fire.
Along the way, she married a fellow fighter pilot – who’s now stationed “only” three
hours away – and had two children, Shannon and Michael.
She now trains others for combat, commanding a 5,000-member fighter wing. On one
particular day, she led a mock bombing raid in the skies over North Carolina.
“You know gender, race, religion, none of that matters, what matters is how you
perform,” Leavitt said.  (Excerpt from a Curtis Lewis newsletter on 10/11/2012)

Pretty Female Fighter Pilot

Some 45 years ago when I was in pursuit of the lofty status of a combat ready jet fighter pilot, the thought of the female fighter pilot was inconceivable. During that period of time (1967), there were no commercial female pilots and the possibility of a woman becoming a military fighter pilot was nihil. It was a very elite fraternity and the male macho persona wanted nothing to do with “a little lady,” clouding the waters by entering their cockpit— women were still supposed to be cheerleaders and had to sit on the sidelines and watch the machismo pilots strut around the base. Air Force pilots, particularly in the glory years of the Vietnam War era, soon learned that the flight suit was a magnet for women, and would not hesitate to wear it off base. With the sleeves rolled up, an unzipped flight suit showing a hairy chest, and an alpha male mustache, the fighter pilot of that era reeked of testosterone.

My best friend, Marylee Bickford, is a female pilot who worked with me at four different airlines. She started her aviation career as a line girl, pumping gas during the winter months in Maine. At age 23 she became a Boeing 727 flight engineer— a job that entailed getting down and dirty during the external pre-flight (walk-around) and sometimes returning to the cockpit, smelling of hydraulic fluid and jet fuel. Her total persona exuded femininity, yet she would not hesitate to perform those traditionally male tasks in order to achieve her goals. She eventually became a Boeing 737 Capt. at Carnival airlines. She was also a major impetus that led to my aviation memoir, The Rogue Aviator: in the back alleys of aviation (www.therogueaviator.com). She is the major female protagonist in this improbable aviation saga.

Most of us will agree; if the lady can do the job, forget about antiquated traditions and put her right over there in the captain’s chair. From fighter pilots to airline captains and aviation entrepreneurs such as Denise Wilson of Desert Jet (www.desertjet.com), allow the ladies to barge right through that glass ceiling. The amazing subchapter of the Col. Jeannie Flynn Leavitt story is that she also does function as the proverbial “little lady,” since she is also married to a fighter pilot. And furthermore, she is the mother of two sons. She has taken the expression, “the right stuff,” to a much higher level.
This blog is prepared by Allen Morris/a.k.a. Ace Abbott, the author of The Rogue Aviator; in the back alleys of aviation (www.therogueaviator.com) and Dead Tired; Pilot Fatigue- Aviation’s Insidious Killer (www.deadtiredpilots.com).