If You Think Talking on a Cellphone and Driving is Hazardous.....

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MIflyer

1st Lieutenant
6,590
13,088
May 30, 2011
Cape Canaveral
From AOPA

"The NTSB found that pilot distraction created by posting to social media in flight during a low-altitude pipeline patrol was the probable cause of a 2021 crash involving a Cessna 182 that struck a radio tower guy wire in St. Louis, Michigan. The accident killed the 23-year-old pilot and sole occupant, Slade Martin."

According to the NTSB final report, the pilot was conducting a low-level pipeline patrol flight in daytime visual meteorological conditions when the aircraft struck a radio tower guy wire, shearing the left wing from the fuselage. The aircraft crashed into a dirt field about three-tenths of a mile northwest of the radio tower and caught fire, destroying most of the aircraft. A post-accident examination of the aircraft wreckage did not uncover any indication of mechanical malfunction or failure.

The NTSB report indicated the pilot was flying at an altitude between 475 and 800 feet agl with a ground track offset to the right of the pipeline. About one minute before the crash, the aircraft crossed over to the left side of the pipeline. The pilot's employer told investigators that patrol flights are typically flown to the right of the pipeline to maintain an unobstructed view of the pipeline.

During the accident investigation, two individuals reported that the pilot posted a Snapchat video that showed the terrain ahead of the aircraft while it was five to 10 miles southeast of the accident site. (Snapchat videos are automatically deleted after 24 hours, so investigators were unable to obtain the actual video.) A screenshot of the Snapchat application's location map provided by one of the individuals indicated the pilot posted the video to the application when the aircraft was 1.5 miles southeast of the radio tower. With this information, the NTSB determined the video was posted 35 seconds before the accident. The agency also determined the aircraft had already crossed over the pipeline at the time the post was shared.

The AOPA Air Safety Institute covers common causes of pilot distraction, with advice for how to prevent them, or manage them, in this Safety Spotlight.
"Based on the known information, it is likely the pilot was distracted while he used his mobile device in the minutes before the accident and did not maintain an adequate visual lookout to ensure a safe flight path to avoid the radio tower and its guy wires," the NTSB states in the final report. "Contributing to the accident," the agency continued, "was the pilot's unnecessary use of his mobile device during the flight, which diminished his attention/monitoring of the airplane's flight path."

Investigation of the aircraft's flight path indicates that the pilot was likely trying to avoid the tower guy wires in the final seconds of the flight. When the aircraft was about 0.65 miles southeast of the tower, it was in a shallow right turn and started a climb from 475 feet agl. The aircraft's final radar location was 600 feet east-southeast of the tower and heading toward the guy wires on the northeast side of the radio tower. The aircraft was flying at 1,370 feet msl, traveling at 104 knots, and climbing at 1,575 feet per minute.
 
Indeed. And he paid for this with the highest price. At least he did not cause more harm by injuring or even killing others.
But if you see today's youth in the cities my hope is gone for them. Walking around or driving on bikes/rollers with headphones on and eyes on the smartphone.
 
People of today aren't taught that vehicles (autos, aircraft, etc.) are machines, not conveniences.

Auto manufacturers aren't helping, either - especially with features like WiFi hotspots (which encourages internet usage), driver assist (which creates a false sense of control) and an information center that looks like an IPad glued to the dashboard.
 
Well, I recall a train mishap out around Los Angeles where the operator was exchanging messages with rail enthusiasts as well as one around Baltimore where the operator was for some reason speeding up when he should have been slowing down. I don't know if cellphone conversations and tests were ever determined to be a factor in the Baltimore mishap.

Thing is, one of the nicest aspects of flying is that there are periods you can relax to a greater extent than is possible with automobile travel; you can trim an airplane up and let go. And I suspect that operating a train has similar periods, since you are not actually steering the thing; most of the time it is just monitoring. But flying at 500 ft AGL while examining a pipeline is not one of those idyllic periods.
 
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Well, I recall a train mishap out around Los Angeles where the operator was exchanging messages with rail enthusiasts as well as one around Baltimore where the operator was for some reason speeding up when he should have been slowing down. I don't know if cellphone conversations and tests were ever determined to be a factor in the Baltimore mishap.

Things is, one of the nicest aspects of flying is that there are periods you can relax to a greater extent than is possible with automobile travel; you can trim an airplane up and let go. And I suspect that operating a train has similar periods, since you are not actually steering the thing; most of the time it is just monitoring. But flying at 500 ft AGL while examining a pipeline is not one of those idyllic periods.
The texting and talking was determined to be major cause of the accident. It lead to further restrictions on personal communication devices. Special Instructions were amended essentially saying they must be off, and off your person. It lead to cameras being installed in operating cabs of revenue trains (not work equipment-there are pages and pages of train type definitions). It also lead to mandatory automatic speed control systems, at least that's what the LIRR called it. The LIRR had to update its system. We had it since the 1950's due to a horrible collision one Thanksgiving holiday eve. Ours worked better. Honest.
I was one of the guys who steered the train. The engineer has the brake and gas pedal. I had the steering wheel and traffic lights. I had a model train set. One to one scale.
 
The texting and talking was determined to be major cause of the accident. It lead to further restrictions on personal communication devices. Special Instructions were amended essentially saying they must be off, and off your person. It lead to cameras being installed in operating cabs of revenue trains (not work equipment-there are pages and pages of train type definitions). It also lead to mandatory automatic speed control systems, at least that's what the LIRR called it. The LIRR had to update its system. We had it since the 1950's due to a horrible collision one Thanksgiving holiday eve. Ours worked better. Honest.
I was one of the guys who steered the train. The engineer has the brake and gas pedal. I had the steering wheel and traffic lights. I had a model train set. One to one scale.
As a small child, in the last days of steam I went to see my grandmother on a train "fired" by my father. Later h was a driver and had to learn the same "route" called the Esk Valley line. It is all twists and turns and gradients etc You cant compare driving that type of train to flying a plane, but it is nowhere near as simple as most think.
 
One odd aspect of GPS was that the railroads were one of the first non-military users. While it is rather hard to wander off the track and get lost in a RR train, it is also hard to tell exactly where you are along a stretch of track, especially at night. With GPS the engineers could tell exactly when to add or reduce power to handle grades and I suppose curves as well. I guess use of GPS saved them a lot of money on fuel costs. And of course GPS transponders should help with safety as well.

Back in 1969 I recall hearing that much of the bumper wheat crop would be lost because the railroads did not know enough about the locations of all of their railcars to be able to transport all of the wheat. I sure hope that bar codes, computers, cellphone technology, and GPS has fixed that problem by now.

That news did lead to me thinking about the ideas for rail deployment of ICBMs. I could imagine a ICBM crew sitting on some lonely siding somewhere with its crew asking, "Anybody know where we are? Leroy, how about you go find a 7/11 or something and ask?"
 
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One odd aspect of GPS was that the railroads were one of the first non-military users. While it is rather hard to wander off the track and get lost in a RR train, it is also hard to tell exactly where you are along a stretch of track, especially at night. With GPS the engineers could tell exactly when to add or reduce power to handle grades and I suppose curves as well. I guess use of GPS saved them a lot of money on fuel costs. And of course GPS transponders should help with safety as well.

Back in 1969 I recall hearing that much of the bumper wheat crop would be lost because the railroads did not know enough about the locations of all of their railcars to be able to transport all of the wheat. I sure hope that bar codes, computers, cellphone technology, and GPS has fixed that problem by now.

That news did lead to me thinking about the ideas for rail deployment of ICBMs. I could imagine a ICBM crew sitting on some lonely siding somewhere with its crew asking, "Anybody know where we are? Leroy, how about you go find a 7/11 or something and ask?"
Two stories about that.

First, over 10 years ago I was watching a show about Australian railroads, and they were having the reporter run a max length/weight train on the E-W transcontinental line (on a simulator).
In the middle of a very long and (visually) flat section an alarm went off... and the instructor next to him said "well, you just broke the train in half". the line had actually just crossed (in the simulation) the Australian Continental Divide - and the reporter had not altered the throttle setting and had though nothing of the fact that their speed had started to increase slightly.

The resulting increase in pulling force at the front of the train (engine HP + gravity), combined with the drag on the part of the train still on the uphill grade, had exceeded the rated strength of the coupling between cars, and the simulator declared that a coupling had physically broken apart.
That part of the simulation had been put in due to just that having happened several times on the actual route... the proper operation at that point was to start slowly throttling back when the locomotives crossed the peak point, and to continue throttling back slowly as more cars topped the Divide and starting to push instead of pull (gravity).

GPS, combined with ACS, could have automatically reduced the engine tractive power to keep the speed and tension within acceptable limits.


The Union Pacific operates a rail line that has a section in an unpopulated part of Utah (between Price, UT and Green River, UT). There is a section just south of US 6 where the UP stores excess cars on a siding... from some time before 2000 to about 2012 the same 30 or so cars sat immobile (they were visible from the highway, and I saw them every time I passed by). I know they were the same care because I had noted the car types and color/markings - and the same cars, in the same order, were always there with no additions or subtraction.
I had often wondered if the UP had forgotten they were there... which was possible even though that track was the primary route from Colorado to northern Utah (I even saw the cars close-up, as a passenger on the AMTRAK run between Grand Junction, CO and Salt Lake City, UT).

Finally, one time there were no cars there... but the next time there were more cars there... different ones than before.
Those have been there for the 9 years or so since.


One reason I paid attention to those cars, and that TV program, is that I have been around trains much of my life... my Father was a RR policeman, and after I had gotten out of the USMC I had worked for some time driving rail switching crews around the yards in Ogden, UT (at night, how fun).
 
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Amtrak gets a lot of grief but I have always been impressed by those guys. I worked with Amtrak dispatchers when I worked PSCC (Penn Station Central Control). While there was some hostility between LIRR and Amtrak (pay difference), they impressed me with their professionalism. They were always being threatened by congressional infighting to eliminate their Road. That can't help work place morale. But they get the job done. An impressive bunch indeed.
 
I have worked in the space launch safety field and there was a train mishap in Graniteville SC in 1999 that revealed how "safety" procedures can lead to catastrophes. A train crew was assembling a train, collecting cars (which in retrospect is obvious but I'd never thought about it). Their last stop of the day was a textile mill in Graniteville. They had to meet the maximum of 12 hours a day on duty requirement and were worried they would bust the limit before they got the train secured. They just managed to get things secured before the 12 hour limit and called for a taxi to take them home. But in their rush to be safe they forgot change the switch on the main line back from the siding. At around 0100 in the morning a freight train came down the main line and was diverted onto the siding, where it hit the parked train. One of the parked tank cars was loaded with chlorine. The resultant cloud of gas killed a number of people. Had they simply ran inside and closed the doors and windows they would have been Okay, but some tried to run away, including the driver of a parked 18 wheeler.

To me, it is baffling that a switch could left in the wrong position, when you consider all of the many ways that condition could be detected and reported on, using technologies that have been available for at least 100 years.
 
The lining of switches has an SOP. The conductor is in charge of the train. The brakeman has to report the condition of the switch to the conductor. The conductor has to report to the train dispatcher that switches are properly lined. The crew and dispatcher must have a clear understanding of the train condition and all affected switches.
 
The crew and dispatcher must have a clear understanding of the train condition and all affected switches.
Yeah, but we could have had automated remote reporting of switch positions since at least 1940. Even before the 40's, the airlines had radio receivers mounted in boxes on telephone poles with landline links so they could talk to their airplanes.
 

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