NORDO…or not

It’s early in the morning while I’m on a spring break trip with the family.  My post is way behind my self-imposed deadline and this writing app is giving me fits.  Why is it behaving this way?  How did the formatting get all messed up?  Will I have to restart writing this one from scratch?  Good thing I’m not in the air having this kind of problem with avionics. 

Day, VFR, and I had a helo with 2 hours of gas.  What to do?  Even then, it was rare for DoD to give us time to just go out for proficiency.  (Forget about it today. I digress.)  We did some pattern work at the closest airfield available for practice, then we decided to do a couple of approaches at a commercial airport nearby before heading home to give the aircraft to another crew.  

One approach went fine, but then we started having comm problems as we set up for a second pass. Both pilots and the one crewman in the back could hear Approach, but I couldn’t transmit and neither could my copilot.  The two radios in the aircraft are incredible. You can talk to anybody in the world on those things . . . usually.  

When we figured out the crewman could transmit, I coached him through canceling our plan with Approach and we headed home VFR.  Then I figured it out.  As great as these radios might be, sometimes they switched to receive only on their own.  None of us in the squadron knew why this happened, but I still felt pretty dumb when I looked down and saw the two little receive annuciators on the display.   

My comm issue was fairly benign. We weren’t in Class B or otherwise busy airspace, had three people to help manage the situation, it was day VFR, et cetera.  It’s not always so simple. 

The pilot of an aeromedical Learjet was on approach to Juneau, AK.  Although he entered the desired navigation aid into his system, he failed to actually switch over from the previous one.  Not double checking cost the lives of the four in the crew and the patient didn’t get picked up.  Aviation Safety Network N456JA

American Airlines Flight 965 was on approach to Cali, Colombia.  A number of things did not go as planned for this crew, but the important one here is the Flight Management System (FMS) had a design error.  In short, the navigation aid abbreviations used in the FMS were not standard, leading to the selection of the wrong NavAid.  Again, failure to properly handle the avionics cost 159 lives.  Aviation Safety Network AA 965

How well do you know and use your avionics?



What say you?