From an Airborne Sensor Operators or a Crew Member position, what is your role in this time-tested and Pilot trained philosophy of prioritizing routine flight actions or how to manage an in-flight emergency situation?
My 2 Cent Answer: No Different …However!
Because of the inherent danger of flying an aircraft, the Airborne Sensor Operator (ASO) on a manned aircraft or a Payload Operator embedded with a Drone Flight Crew becomes “de-facto” critical part of the “Aviate, Navigate and Communicate” process. Even though the ASO has different technical duties & responsibilities than the Pilot, the main perspectives of an Airborne Sensor Operator from that of a Pilot are “different but not different.” So, if you’re an ASO or Payload instructor, are the following points good to instruct student ASOs in-regard-to Aviate, Navigate, Communicate:
- Besides the pilot, an ASO should make it a point to know the in & Out of the aircraft their flying. This includes knowing basic Aeronautical/Airmanship principles, your specific aircraft systems & performance factors and can have the technical knowledge to flight flow with the pilot in-regard-to the characteristic of the aircraft.
- Routinely monitor the status of the condition of flight. Other words don’t get complacent after hours of boring data collection and doing your “bore-sighted” collection job. Don’t let your “Soda-Straw” view distract you from the “Big Picture”…ie…your part of a “piece of metal in the sky” from takeoff to landing (.3 or 13.0 Hrs.).
- During an emergency, backup the pilot(s) flight situational awareness & workload…Don’t get fixated along with the rest of the crew! Help the pilot fly the airplane by taking another task off his or her mind (look-up/read-out-loud EP checklist, crawl around the cockpit to check cable connections, etc)!
- As the Sensor Operator, you should have equal or better geo-location situational awareness than the pilot because of the purpose of data collection to know where you are; know the terrain around you, below you and where you’re going. Also, an ASO should be thinking the following in-regard-to navigation…Am I “Behind the Aircraft,” “With the Aircraft” or “Ahead of the Aircraft”…Right answer…”Ahead of the Aircraft”.
- Again, besides the pilot, an ASO should not be focused primarily on the collection area but make it a point to back up the navigation of taxi, departure, en route to/from the collection area, arrival, and taxi to stop.
- During an emergency, backup the pilot(s) flight situational awareness (SA) & workload by supporting the identification of the nearest “planned” or “best option” emergency airfields or landing zones. Additionally, be prepared to provide heading, distance & obstacle information to the EP landing location. Don’t forget, if applicable, your sensors can be an excellent tool to support the SA of the emergency and bring the flight to a successful conclusion.
- An ASO should know radio procedures and etiquette. This includes knowing how to operate all communication systems associated with the aircraft and the communication-assisted devices of a Drone crew. Additionally, listen before speaking – make sure current communication exchange is over before speaking, i.e., avoid “Stepping On” someone else’s radio or intercom call. In General, be clear, concise and communicate all necessary details.
- Practice Crew Resource Management (CRM) principles. CRM combines individual skills and human factors knowledge with effective crew coordination. One of the key principles is communication & cooperation (TeamWork).
- During an emergency, and besides practicing communication bullets 1 & 2, be ready to back up the pilot(s) communication workload by taking the responsibility of communicating with ATC or other critical players. Having the pilot-in-command (PIC) trust in you to take this responsibility is “worth its weight in Gold & blood” and says a lot of an ASO’s abilities!
Again, if you’re an ASO or Aerial Payload instructor, are the above points good to instruct student ASOs in-regard-to Aviate, Navigate, Communicate?
ASOG Desk Editor (Patrick)
Image: Wikimedia Commons - Archangel12