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Thursday, April 19, 2018

"There’s a hole, and, uh, someone went out"

I sincerely don't know if, upon flying a huge and heavy machine such as a Boeing 737 with 144 passengers, with an exploding engine and a hole, I would have the nerves to behave as she did.

Maybe I could, but I would need a few expletives while profering the phrase she did up above. Right there you see the difference between men and women when driving (or flying?).

Another difference is, I wouldn't have had to hear what she did while trying to be a pilot:

“During my senior year of high school in 1979, I attended a vocational day where I heard a retired colonel give a lecture on aviation,” Shults told author Linda L. Maloney for the book “Military Fly Moms.” “He started the class by asking me, the only girl in attendance, if I was lost.”
“I mustered up the courage to assure him I was not, and that I was interested in flying,” Shults said. “He allowed me to stay, but assured me there were no professional women pilots.”
Out of college, Shults was rejected by the Air Force — who did offer her brother a chance to enlist. After more than a year of trying, Shults caught on with the Navy in 1983. Shults, of Texas, spent 10 years with the Navy, and was among the first women to fly an F/A-18 fighter jet when her squadron transitioned from the A-7.

I wonder, were the technical qualifications to fly in the Navy any different from the Air Force, or the gender was really the point?


erp said...


erp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bret said...

Clovis wonders if, "I would have the nerves to behave as she did."

Was there a choice? She had to keep flying the plane, didn't she?

Look, I have little doubt that she's courageous and a tough cookie. But this is a lot like people who are calling her a hero. To me, a hero is one who intentionally takes on risk and danger that they don't absolutely have to (for example, running into a burning building to save people). She had absolutely no choice but to do what she did (or give up and die, I guess).

I'm nearly 100% confident I would've stuck with it and continued to try and pilot the plane. Perhaps I would've sounded more nervous (panicked even) when talking to the tower, but so what?

For example, when I was 17 or 18 I was driving about 70mph along a country road and I hit a (big!) patch of ice. The car went into a spin and I ended up doing a complete 360 rotation at 70mph on a narrow country road and if I hadn't recovered from the spin I would've nearly certainly died (ditches and trees lined the road). But I stuck with it and guided the car out of the spin (I had practiced doing "donuts" in icy parking lots for fun so I actually knew how to come out of it) and continued on my (not so) merry way. What choice was there except to try and survive?

The pilot didn't have a choice. Neither would've you if you had been in that situation and I'd bet a LOT of money that you would've kept at it too. The survival instinct is very strong and is lower brain and you wouldn't've had a chance to think about it.

Bret said...

And where is Hey Skipper these days? This would be the sort of thing he should be be writing on and commenting about.

erp said...

I am afraid to ask.

Bret said...

And erp, you doing okay? You haven't been commenting much lately either.

erp said...

Just life in the 80's is consumed with health issues and unlike you guys, discussions in the vein of "how many angels can fit on the head of pin" don't speak to me. I do read everything though, so watch your spelling and grammar.


Thanks for asking and I'd like to add that we have a new 5 week old baby boy named Henry who's just about as adorable as a baby can possibly be! He lives out your way in SF and we're hoping to meet him in person this summer.

Do you think I should email Jeff and find out if he's on an atoll in the South Pacific watching the fish jump out of the water and into the frying pan for lunch?

Clovis e Adri said...


I confess I wrote this one in the hope Skipper would give us his take of this accident.

As far as I know, to land a plane with only one engine working is not that big a deal. The part about my passengers being sucked out by the hole, though, could very well freak me out. I would land the plane, but to calmly report it like “there is a hole and someone went out”? No way. It even sounds a bit psychopathic to me.

Hey Skipper said...

During my senior year of high school in 1979 ...

I graduated pilot training in 1979. The very first women to become AF pilots graduated in 1978. The Navy hadn't yet decided to allow women pilots, hence the obvious question.

Clearly, just as with Jim Crow laws, it is a grotesque affront to morality to treat individuals as if they embody the characteristics of their apparent group. It is complete nonsense to assume that there will be within, say, 10,000 women as many people desiring to be, and capable of being, pilots as 10,000 men. But at the level of the individual, which is where Western civilization triumphs, and where statistics completely breaks down, Capt Shults is as good a pilot as Capt Shults is, no matter the plumbing.

Thankfully, since the late 1970s (which was also when the first female airline pilot was hired at United), the pilot profession has completely eliminated barriers to women. Consequently, the ratio of female pilots has skyrocketed all the way from 0% to 5.5%, a level that was reached in the mid-90s, and hasn't budged since.

Out of college, Shults was rejected by the Air Force ...

Not nearly enough details here to know what is going on.

However, here is some personal experience. I started in AFROTC at USC as a pilot candidate in 1973, along with 76 others. By the time I was a senior, largely, but not completely, on account of the Vietnam drawdown, there were 6 left standing.

Three got wings.

That said, by 1983, because of airline hiring, the AF short of pilots. But that said, said, the pipeline was only so big, and she might simply not have made the cut. It happens.

In the mid-1990s, I was back in the AF pilot training world, this time at the command level. Any woman who evinced even the slightest desire to be a pilot, and at least a few who didn't, were in the program.

In my experience, which extended over four years in the AF and Navy, in very objective training environments, female students had the same washout rate as males, but were over-represented in the bottom half of their classes. But Capt Shults isn't female students, nor were two women I instructed who went on to fly fighters.

[OP: I sincerely don't know if, upon flying a huge and heavy machine such as a Boeing 737 with 144 passengers, with an exploding engine and a hole, I would have the nerves to behave as she did.]

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones said it as well as anyone, ever. (Song here. Absolutely brilliant.)

Hey Skipper said...

[OP:] I sincerely don't know if, upon flying a huge and heavy machine such as a Boeing 737 with 144 passengers, with an exploding engine and a hole, I would have the nerves to behave as she did.

Expanding further on that.

Capt Shults and her First Officer, who is practically nameless, but is nearly as important to the outcome as she is, were faced with simultaneous multiple emergencies.

1. When the engine let go, not only was the thrust suddenly very asymmetric, but the damage to the left engine was such that it had far more drag than a "normal" engine failure. That meant the airplane would suddenly have rolled right and quickly exceeded autopilot control limits (hello, fans of self-piloting planes, looking right at you).

2. There were immediate action engine fire warnings.

3. The cabin started depressurizing. (Not explosive -- the hole wasn't that big.)

Which meant the crew had to focus and prioritize:

1. Aircraft control first -- disconnect the autopilot, and lots of right rudder to balance the thrust asymmetry

2. Oxygen masks on

3. Establish communication

4. Deal with the engine fire warnings

5. Start an emergency descent to 10,000 feet.

Having done that, which probably took about two minutes, things then became very "routine", in the sense that the crew had then put themselves within the realm of normal emergencies.

Compare and contrast with AF447.

The big takeaways:

Experience, skill, and training are essential. US major airlines have very high experience requirements just to get in the front door, and the training is very exacting.

Plumbing isn't. Capt Shults was as good a pilot as Capt Shults was. People who think in terms of groups instead of individuals disgust me; they are either hypocrites or idiots. No one wants diversity in the operating room, or on the flight deck. What they want is the best that can be had, and that has heck-all to do with gender or race. At the same time, that requires understanding that at the statistical level, ability and desire aren't evenly distributed.

I'd like to think I could step up to that plate. I don't ever want to find out.

Hey Skipper said...

[Clovis:] I would land the plane, but to calmly report it like “there is a hole and someone went out”? No way. It even sounds a bit psychopathic to me.

My wife thinks pilots are, on the Asberger's spectrum, somewhat out there.

I'm not sure she isn't right. But a fundamental requirement for succeeding as a pilot is extreme compartmentalization: emotionlessly executing tasks in an unforgiving environment. In that regard, Capt Shults is no different than other pilots who successfully answered the call. They all sound like that.

Hey Skipper said...

[Bret:] And where is Hey Skipper these days?

I got tired of insults where arguments belonged.

erp said...

Insults happen when there are no coherent arguments for positions being held. The entire left is of the same mind set. This latest crazy, a professor at Fresno State who went after Barbara Bush's corpse, is an extreme case of leftwing nutcasery.

Anyway, I'm very glad you and Mrs. Skipper are okay.

Bret said...

Hey Skipper wrote "I got tired of insults where arguments belonged."

That's unfortunate.

I'm glad you're okay though. I was starting to worry.

Clovis e Adri said...


I am glad you gifted us with your take on it, I surely learned a few things.

I will make the mea culpa and ask for your forgiveness if I was the source of the insults.

Apparently, I have the power to annoy people who are, under most other circumstances, very thick skinned. I don't take pride on it though.

Peter said...

Good to see you're alive and well, Skipper, even if your mother does wear army boots. :-)

erp said...

Hey GG's, this is way off topic, but I've been preoccupied and don't want to take the time to research it.

Net Neutrality: Are we for or against it?

Don't explain the pros and cons, etc.

Just a flat yes, we're for it or no, we're against it.


Hey Skipper said...

I'm against, for a couple reasons.

First, using a 1936 law to regulate something which those lawmakers couldn't even begin to envision is a perfect example of post-hoc legislation.

And, second, the intarwebz functioned just fine until 2015 without net neutrality. Don't fix what isn't broke.

erp said...

Thanks Skipper. Another reason I suspected we should be against it. Progs are for it.