## Friday, February 17, 2012 ... /////

### When the captain (pilot) passes away

Commercial aircrafts are usually piloted by two men and it is so for a good reason.

On Wednesday, captain Mr Jaroslav Váňa (58), a great and beloved pilot and a lover of his old Škoda 120 car, almost completed his routine flight from Warsaw to Prague flawlessly. However, when he began to land, he made a mistake that a pilot shouldn't do more than once in his life (except if he is Hindu): he died.

What I find impressive – and it is not the first time – is the discipline and cold attitude that the other pilot obeys.

You could say that his behavior is machine-like, nearly inhuman and lacking compassion. Nevertheless, it's still necessary. Pilots are trained for various – often extreme – situations and some of them, in some cases, are guaranteed by the laws of statistics to need to stick to the appropriate procedures.

Also, it seems to me that both sides of the English conversation between the aircraft and the airport which I embedded above are Czech. For some reasons, I would still find it safer if non-native English speakers could speak their mother tongue whenever possible.

The late pilot was very popular, witty, and talkative. He would always ask "What do I never fly without?" The answer was coffee. Also, he had a visual scheme of 10 objects associated with each decimal digit. He was periodically testing the stewardesses whether they have remembered the scheme.

If I return to the question in the title: What happens when the captain dies during the flight? The answer that is both cruel and liberating is that pretty much nothing else happens.

RIP Mr Váňa.

#### snail feedback (2) :

reader Eric said...

Congratulations to the co-pilot for staying calm and following procedures. Not easy, but critical in that situation.

reader Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

"Also, it seems to me that both sides of the English conversation between the aircraft and the airport which I embedded above are Czech. For some reasons, I would still find it safer if non-native English speakers could speak their mother tongue whenever possible."

Perhaps. In a lot of Latin American and Asian airlines, one of the benefits of using English conversation is that it breaks the subconscious cultural respect for hieararchy that can prevent a subordinate co-pilot from alerting to a superior pilot to a mistake. The switch to English substantially reduceds airline accidents due to human error in Korea, for example, once it was implemented. The same issues may not be prsent in Czech, but there is some empirically driven method to the madness of having non-English speakers who share a language use English when conducting flight operations.