Pilot Flying and Pilot Monitoring

On the wave of aviation themed posts, I add one more about the coordination and workload split between pilots. I have no direct experience nor reports, so my considerations are more around the mental model than actual practice or official guidelines.

Here are my sources for this post: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pilot_flying – itself sourcing https://www.skybrary.aero/articles/pilot-flying-pf-and-pilot-monitoring-pm – and a few posts from https://aviation.stackexchange.com/ .

My summary is as follows: there is no way for a pilot alone to fly the plane while keeping track of everything and also communicating (not even during emergencies and especially not during emergencies), which implies that there is no way for a pilot alone to bear the responsibility about the flight. That responsibility is then shared in the form of an agreement of division of labor: one is the Pilot Flying (airplane controls) and the other is the Pilot Monitoring (monitor the flight management and aircraft control actions of the Pilot Flying and carry out support duties such as communications and check-list reading). That’s an effective way to handle the sum of tasks – even if the roles could not be swapped.

What makes the model really great for me is that it clearly sets the modes of switching between the two roles, based on the skills equivalence of the two pilots. First of all it removes ambiguity, so that there is no risk of any “oh I thought you were on this”, which would clearly lead to life-threatening situations for a flying airplane (and is the main, probably only, reason that this protocol has been developed). Of course I see that in other situations there is no equivalent damage to avoid – but still, I value the clarity of the model in more ordinary settings, even only to remove extra effort of fixing things or catching up.

I have been often in the situation where tasks had to be distributed among people, but much less often in the situation that roles were swapped with a clean handover like the one described in the PF/PM procedures. I’m getting close to this at work right now and the ultimate joy is not so much that it is happening, but that is explicit and agreed upon.

Airbus A380 cockpit.jpg
By Naddsyhttps://www.flickr.com/photos/83823904@N00/64156219/, CC BY 2.0, Link


Wanting – what it means

I’ll write a short post, even if my thoughts on the topic are long and winded.

I’m often not comfortable with the word/concept of “wanting” and I use it very rarely. I definitely avoid using it when talking about objects or even food.

I have noticed that most people I know use the word to mean “I have a goal and I will achieve it” or at least “I’m invested in something”.

For me both sentences are not well translated by “wanting” that thing. I may set a goal for myself and achieve it, but I notice that my success either depends more on the favorable context than my ability to overcome issues (sometimes there are very few and it’s not really a matter of any effort or even willpower), or when the goal requires new/better skills, I work on those, and that’s the focus.

I may be invested in something, but not because there is any personal result, rather because I care about the thing and work on supporting it.

In both situations, a personal goal doesn’t raise (nor is the product of) strong emotions. I feel much more push and adrenaline when it’s about a shared objective with positive outcomes for more people/etc than myself.

Writing this brings me to think that my thoughts around “wanting” may be the sign of more profound schemas that are not centered around the self (for a set of reasons that I’m currently researching). I’ll keep working on this.

Phugoid and mental setup

It is a quite technical post, and I hope I get my metaphor through. Bear with me!

The concept of phugoid comes from airplane flight and has been identified as a basic aircraft mode of motion, that oscillates between nose-up and nose-down, in a cyclic motion. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phugoid .

I initially felt a similarity with my own mental states, but I could not feel that my own mental states converged towards smaller oscillations as it was described for commercial airplanes, whose very shape dampens the phugoid.

I kept reading and found a more detailed explanation at https://aircraftflightmechanics.com/Dynamics/ModesofMotion.html, that made clear that commercial aircraft are DESIGNED+REQUIRED that phugoid motions get damped, while not-commercial aircraft (military, but experimental designs too) are subject to phugoid motions that diverge, and need to be handled as devices that are not going to stabilise themselves.

I took some time to carefully read through the article. I needed some time to realise that my own mind actually has a diverging phugoid mode.

It was liberating! I got the hint that I needed to handle my mind as something that is not inherently stable. No judgment, no expectation, no sadness, no nothing – just an established instability I have to deal with, and I am ready+willing to deal with, like a skilled pilot.

Book impression: “Scott Amundsen – Wettlauf zum Pol” by Kåre Holt

After a long hiatus I read a new book, found at the give&take shelf in my city.

Book cover – source: https://www.antikvariatsteiner.sk/

I have read some of the diaries and summaries of both expeditions, so there was no suspense for me, but I was interested in this book just the same. Holt took first-hand reports of both expeditions and made a side-by-side narration that felt credible and that did create an almost cinematic suspense.

I started the book with a vague worry that it would sound heroic and epic, which would have told more about the narrator than the expeditions themselves. The first chapter dispersed that worry right away, painting a portrait of Amundsen that was not exclusively about his courage, determination, and other necessary qualities for the expedition in that absolutely inhospitable continent. Somehow it managed to make statements that didn’t feel like bringing arguments for a specific point, and that was helpful for me, because it made me feel allowed to keep all information in focus. The following chapter about Scott was similarly somehow mixed. The whole book kept that non-filter / non-focus in a way that made it sound credible – in a way that I will not be able to double-check though, so I will not say that it is an accurate depiction.

As a difference from my other reads about both expeditions, this book is definitely shorter, so there had to be some selection from the full range of sources. Though, as for the portraits of the expeditions’ leaders, there was an overall impression of concreteness, down to the ugliest details – not the dangers and disagreements, but the difficulty in traveling by sea on overloaded ships, getting water for drinking when out on the ice, keeping themselves clean and dry (as good as impossible), on top of the most mundane logistic/transport/food issues.

I got slower and slower in reading the book, as it narrated the slow walk to death of Scott’s polar team. Even Amundsen’s return and celebration was rendered as a mix of feelings, reactions, details. I needed a couple days to emerge from the intense feelings woken up by the book.

2022 knits

As my last post of 2022 I wish to share the overview of this year’s crafting, mostly knitting with some crochet items. This activity makes me particularly happy and proud, because it calms me, progresses slowly but visibly, and very importantly, progress is stable. I learned a few new techniques and gifted some items to friends. I made wearables that properly fit me and are comfortable.

For 2023 I want to keep knitting and crocheting, and have many projects in my queue already.

So, goodbye 2022, wishing you all a great start in the new year!

Bilingual in areas

Recently I read an article about bilingual people’s brain activity according to language spoken/read. I honestly don’t remember much of the methods nor conclusions, but I thought about my use of languages, and it’s quite evident that I’m not even fully bilingual when I consider the two languages I learned as a child. Especially back then, each language belonged to non overlapping environments (home, school, books, movies…), and even growing up, each environment kept its language or at least its strongly preferred language.

That’s why I don’t see myself as bilingual in the sense of being able to use any of the two languages interchangeably. Not to mention the two more languages I learned later in life, that are even more markedly domain-specific.

Dolphins with hands

During a recent conversation, a friend told me “Imagine how powerful/effective a dolphin would be if it were fitted with hands it could control, it would probably make humans look stupid in comparison, as it could finally make use of its great intelligence”.

I tried to take a breath before answering, but I immediately thought “Are you implying that dolphins are living massively below their potential because of their hand-less bodies? Do we even understand how their lives and world views are? Are we maybe unaware of something important that we could learn from them instead?”

Then my thoughts took a turn towards “Why always evaluate animals’ performance using normal-human standards as the goal, and judge them as less developed, or worse, that they would live better if they were more human-like in their actions and aspirations?”

Then I only answered out loud: “Isn’t it the usual human focus at play? I bet the dolphin chosen for the experiment would be bullied because it’s not human but dares to challenge humans’ achievements, probably bullied harder if it’s smart, or more cruelly, if it’s not that smart for human standards, as if it were the proof that all dolphins were overestimated in their potential? Like what happens to neurodivergent people? I don’t wish to dolphins to be treated like this.”