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Comments from a Reader

Posted 7 years 184 days ago ago by Randy Mains

Often times I receive comments from readers who have an observation or two about a column I’ve written.  I recently received an email from a Captain Mark Sobaszko who flies for a major airline offering his 2 Cents’ Worth about my latest article, “Sully Welcome to our World”.  As a former helicopter pilot, I find Captain Sobaszko’s comments quite interesting as he’s seen both sides of the coin. Here is what he had to say:

Hi Randy

I just read your article in Rotorcraft Pro “Sully Welcome to our World” and you succinctly summed up my feelings on the matter.  I began my career as a U.S. Army Warrant Officer helicopter pilot in 1974 flew commercially for oil operations in our Gulf and the Middle East, government/corporate ops for the Tennessee Valley Authority, then for a short while, EMS ops in a single pilot IFR 412 out of Chattanooga TN. I then transitioned to the fixed wing world flying regional airline turboprops for eleven years before hiring on at a major airline.  A five year furlough after 9/11 found me  back in corporate ops, flying a 407 and some business jets.  I'm currently flying Airbus 319/320/321s for a major airline.

During my Army days I was the non-flying junior crewmember on a UH-1H that experienced a CFIT accident in the mountainous and desert terrain around Twentynine Palms CA.  That episode had a dramatic effect on my subsequent forty years of flying.  My diverse 6700 hours of helicopter time and 15,000 plus hours of multiengine turboprop/jet time in mainly airline ops has me shaking my head whenever I consider the primarily single pilot status of most HEMS operations.  My short time in a very well-equipped HEMS 412 with dual everything, autopilot, huge Nightsun illumination, etc. was as challenging a job as I've ever had, including night offshore ops in similarly equipped 212 and 214ST aircraft.

So I think I've got a pretty good feel for the subject matter of your opinion piece, up to and including Airbus 320 experience flying out of LGA like Sully. Considerable FAR 121 experience in airline operations has convinced me that two well-trained pilots with frequent CRM refresher training is a hard combination to beat.  Night and marginal VFR HEMS ops are every bit as, if not more challenging, than anything I've done as an airline pilot. Yet I've always got a second experienced pilot backing me up in the Airbus and we're always operating into well-equipped, well-lit airfields, under IFR rules, and usually in radar contact.

The FAA's contradictory mission that hamstrings their willingness to improve HEMS regulations and requirements is also evident in airline operations. Although they are cognizant of the obvious danger of allowing parents to fly with "lap children", rather than requiring that the child be strapped into their own seat, the FAA refuses to dictate such a rule because it might impose a financial burden on the parents or cause the airlines to lose potential customers who decide to drive rather than fly.

So, I'm not holding my breath in expectation of any positive rule changes in your industry or mine until the FAA has their basic mission redefined.
Be careful out there!

Mark Sobaszko

About Randy: Randy Mains is an author, public speaker, and a CRM/AMRM consultant who works in the helicopter industry after a long career of aviation adventure. He currently serves as chief CRM/AMRM instructor for Oregon Aero. He may be contacted at [email protected]