AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - 18

WAYPOINTS

Distractions: Dispatch them

BY THOMAS B. HAINES
Editor in Chief

Pay attention and focus for an uneventful flight

Editor in Chief
TOM HAINES

has owned his
1972 Beechcraft
Bonanza A36
since 1999.

18 | AOPA PILOT May 2021

FOUR RAUCOUS TEENAGERS carried on in the back.
There was the occasional song and snort of laughter-
which made them laugh all the more. Some ohhs and
ahhs as the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and then all of the
lights of the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., metro
area slid by beneath us on this beautiful summer night.
It was the end of a glorious and memorable day at the
beach in Ocean City, Maryland.
With summer drawing to an end and the start
of school just over the horizon, my oldest daughter pleaded with me to take her and her friends to
the beach for the day. It's a four-hour drive each
way to Ocean City or a quick one-hour flight in our
Bonanza and then a 10-minute cab ride to the boardwalk. I didn't take much convincing, and soon we
were on our way. Once on the beach, I did my best
to disappear into the crowd while keeping an eye on
the teens from afar. The plan was to head home by
about 6 p.m., but they were having a great time and
the weather was good, so when they asked to stay
longer, once again, I caved easily. The sun was just
below the horizon by the time we piled back in for
the trip home.
The kids seemed mesmerized by the takeoff, but
soon after we leveled off the sugary drinks and cotton candy kicked in and they giggled and sang. I think
I heard a couple of cheerleading chants as we plowed
into the night. I flipped the intercom over to Isolate
mode to block out the backseaters, but even then I
could hear the cacophony.
We weren't the only ones enjoying this evening.
Plenty of others were out flying too as we converged
on home base at Frederick, Maryland. The frequency
was busy at what was then an nontowered airport.
Finally, as we entered the pattern I had to announce
that we needed silence in the back during landing. I
didn't need the distraction. As we rolled up to the hangar, I thanked them for their cooperation.
Fast forward a few months when I was again taking
some kids up for a flight. As we neared the pattern for
landing, I heard my daughter announce to the others,
" My dad needs us to be quiet now so he can concentrate on landing. " I smiled. Sometimes we think they
don't listen.
Distractions can be insidious. Noise. Traffic alerts.
Late descents while configuring to land. We humans
are not so good at multitasking. Anything that distracts

us from the primary focus of the moment can lead to
disaster-or at the least, embarrassment.
Shortly after a fatal midair collision in the traffic
pattern at Frederick, the tower controllers became
super cautious about position reports in the terminal
area-understandable, given they have no radar display. After initial check in, they will tell you to report
in at typically five miles out and then often again at two
miles out. Coming in from the southwest one time, I
was told to report at five miles. And then the controller
alerted me to traffic crossing at my altitude a couple of
miles ahead. I struggled to see the traffic in the haze,
but eventually I saw it safely off to the west. I reported
in at two miles out, only to hear in response, " What
happened to the five-mile call? "
I had screwed up. Distraction got me. Fortunately,
the busy controller let me slide, and I went on to a
safe landing.
For years I flew a 1984 Beechcraft Bonanza A36.
That was the first year where Beech redesigned the
panel to move the gear and flap switches into the
same positions as most other aircraft. Earlier models
had the gear switch unconventionally on the right
and the flaps on the left. Later, I bought a 1972 model
of my own with the switches in the " unconventional " position and was super paranoid about not
making the mistake of accidently putting the gear
up on the ground when I meant to raise the flaps.
Twenty years later, I still have a tactical and verbal
mantra I use before moving either lever. " This is the
flap, " I say out loud as I feel for the switch that is
shaped like a flap. I suppose I'm particularly aware
because this poor Bonanza suffered such a fate at
the hands of the techs at the former Beech Service
Center in Van Nuys, California. Used to flying the
newer models, the tech, after a maintenance flight,
reached over to put the flaps up while in the landing roll (that alone is a serious mistake). He found
a switch where he expected it and lifted it. And the
gear did exactly what he asked-it folded up underneath the airplane, damaging the prop and belly, and
requiring an engine replacement.
Distractions. Dispense with them and focus on one
thing at a time for an uneventful flight.
AOPA
EMAIL thomas.haines@aopa.org

@tomhaines29



AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021

Contents
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Intro
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Cover1
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AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Contents
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