Flight Training - August 2014 - 26

AROUND THE PATCH

By Heather Baldwin

WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE

MITIGATE YOUR RISKS TO DODGE THE SHARKS

FLYING OVER the Dominican Republic,
near Samana Bay.

I

f there were an award for preflight planning, it would surely go
to Jose Acosta. Prior to undertaking a round-trip journey in 2013
from Georgia to his native Puerto Rico-a 3,000-mile voyage that
would put him over the water for 20 hours in a single-engine
Cessna 172-Acosta spent three months in preparation. He researched
non-U.S. flight operations, studied Alaskan bush pilot tricks of the
trade, simulated water landings in the local pool, pored over approach
plates, and grilled his instructors for equipment recommendations. He
envisioned every possible risk and determined ways to moderate them.
The effort was par for the course for
this instrument-rated private pilot, who
embarked on the journey just nine months
after earning his pilot certificate. A civil
affairs special operator in the U.S. Army
for the last 14 years, Acosta knows that
detailed planning can mean the difference between life and death. He knew
this extraordinary cross-country journey,
like any military mission, would simply
require proper preparation to pull it off.
While he entertained vague concerns
about sharks and the Bermuda Triangle,
Acosta focused his planning on more practical matters. He studied weather. He flew
as much as possible to build experience.

26 /

FLIGHTTRAINING.AOPA.ORG

He also undertook:
A co-pilot search. Realizing that having another pilot to share the workload
would be wise, he approached many
seasoned pilots about joining him on the
trip. They all had the same response: No
way, Jose. With the vast distances to cover
over water, they all urged him to get his
multiengine rating and make the trip on

two engines. He disagreed. "I think if you
plan for it and practice and rehearse and
mitigate the risk, anything can be relatively
safe," Acosta asserts. In the end, nephew
Ricky Acosta Jr., a newly minted private
pilot, got the right seat.
Water dunk training. On one stretch of
the trip, Acosta would spend four hours
over open water. What would happen, he
wondered, if the engine quit? He concluded that hitting the water would be
highly disorienting. "I started going to the
pool," he says. "I sat in a chair at the edge
and threw myself backwards."
Equipment research. In addition to
FAA-required equipment for overwater
operations, Acosta wondered what else
might be helpful in the event of a remote
or water landing. He read Army survival
manuals and scoured online discussions
among Alaskan wilderness pilots. He also
talked to instructors at Skyline Columbus,
where he was working on his commercial certificate. Their recommendation:
Bring a spare tire. One hard landing could
wreck a tire, they said, and if the right one
was not on hand, it could strand him and
ruin the trip.
International studies. Acosta spent
countless hours studying the rules of
flight for the countries in and near which
he would be flying. He also visualized
communicating with non-U.S. controllers
and decided that with their accents and
his, misunderstandings were possible.
"How do you mitigate that? I just thought
through it," he recalls. "I imagined saying

"I THINK IF YOU PLAN FOR IT AND PRACTICE
AND REHEARSE AND MITIGATE THE RISK,
ANYTHING CAN BE RELATIVELY SAFE,"
ACOSTA ASSERTS.


http://FLIGHTTRAINING.AOPA.ORG

Flight Training - August 2014

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Flight Training - August 2014

Contents
Flight Training - August 2014 - Cover1
Flight Training - August 2014 - Cover2
Flight Training - August 2014 - Contents
Flight Training - August 2014 - 2
Flight Training - August 2014 - 3
Flight Training - August 2014 - 4
Flight Training - August 2014 - 5
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Flight Training - August 2014 - Cover3
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