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Commercial Pilot on Fear of Drowning


RUSH: Here's Jen in Coram, New York. It's great to have you on the EIB Network. Hi.

CALLER:  How are you doing, Rush?

RUSH:  Just fine.  Thank you.

CALLER:  Great.  I'm a commercial pilot, and I just want to say, every pilot I know would totally appreciate your Hu Jintao impression.  When I was going for my instrument-check ride, my examiner was this crusty old Irish guy that everybody knows. His name was Frank. He had one great story after another about all the years of flying, and I was ready to take my check ride when he calls up.

We're in the plane. He calls up ATC [Air Traffic Control] and says, "We're ready to test to be active," and he recognizes the ATC's voice. The next thing I know, these two guys are talking to each other in the most ludicrous Chinese accents.  (imitation)  I nearly fell out of the plane laughing. You gotta understand: Every plane within a 50-mile radius could hear this exchange, and you could hear guys clicking on laughing, and it was just great.

RUSH:  Are you telling me that an ATC, an Air Traffic Control employee, was actually engaging in this conversation with the fake Chinese?

CALLER:  Yes.  It was hilarious.  It was hilarious, and the pilot --

RUSH:  Leland Yee must not have heard about this.

CALLER: (laughing) No.  You know, nobody would ever say anything to this guy.

RUSH:  Everybody would know Frank?

CALLER:  Oh, yeah.  Yeah.  Frank, he's a legend.  He used to --

RUSH:  Wait, wait, wait.  In your world everybody knows Frank.

CALLER:  Yeah, yeah, yeah.

RUSH:  Frank's an instructor?

CALLER:  He's what's known as a DME [Designated Mechanic Examiner]. He's an examiner, and he used to work in Africa chasing down poachers on this giant estate. He got shot at from poachers.

RUSH:  Okay.  So when you do your...? What kind of airplane did you do your instrument-check ride in?

CALLER:  I did that in a Cessna 172, and I did my commercial in a Piper Arrow.

RUSH:  Okay, and what do you fly mostly now?

CALLER:  Sea planes.

RUSH:  Oh, really? 

CALLER: Cessna 180s.

RUSH:  Sea planes?  You know what I've never understood -- I've heard it but I've never had it explained -- is "getting up on step."

CALLER:  Oh, yeah. I have --

RUSH:  What is "getting up on step"?  I mean, you gotta do that to take off, right?  What is it?

CALLER:  Yeah, yeah.  Again, you're clearing things. You know, you gotta watch for chop in the waves and stuff like that. I've always said, "The only thing I fear about flying is drowning."

RUSH:  That's interesting.  The one thing you fear about flying is drowning.

CALLER:  Yeah.  Like this Malaysian flight.  Last week I was laughing with guys thinking that these two pilots had swiped this plane, but now they found wreckage.  When they find those voice recorders, you're gonna find two guys trying desperately to save that plane.  They did a 180 trying to get back to land.  They just couldn't do.  It's a tragic thing, I think.

RUSH:  Has CNN reached out to you for this explanation?

CALLER: (laughing) No.  No.  But originally I agreed with General [Thomas] McInerney. I thought they stole it, took it to Pakistan, and were gonna load it up with WMDs. You know, because there were so many odd things. There's what's known as an ELT, which is an Emergency Locator Transmitter.  Nobody ever heard that thing go off.  That thing goes off when your plane hits harder than it's supposed to.  It's kind of like an air bag blows off at a certain velocity.

RUSH:  Call it a ping.  I mean, that's what people think of it is now. Everything's a ping.  I remember my first... I don't have time to tell you this story.  It's kind of funny. 


RUSH: My first ever private plane flight to Hawaii, I think it was a Challenger 604, which is a wide-body corporate jet.  It's kind of a stubby, but it's wide body.  I think you can put eight people in there, whatever.  The pilot and the flight attendant are taking off from San Francisco or LA, I forget which, so it's time for the safety instruction.  Now, the flight time to Hawaii is basically six hours, and it's all over water.  We're gonna be at 41,000 feet, something like that, and so this pilot grabs a life preserver and says, "We're going over a lot of water.  If something happens, I want you to make sure you know where this is." 

I looked and I said, "Are you kidding me?  If we end up in the water, a life preserver is gonna matter?" 

He said, "I have to do it."  He was required by federal law to impart the instructions.  "Yeah, your seat cushion there is also suitable for flotation." 

I said, "Really?"  We had this pilot who said her greatest fear of flying is drowning, the pilot we just had on, which reminded me of that. I mean, it seemed like just a pointless instruction.  


RUSH:  Dave in Columbus, Ohio.  I've got about a minute, but I wanted to get to you.  I appreciate your holding.  Hello.

CALLER:  Good morning, Rush -- actually, afternoon -- and mega dittos.

RUSH:  Thank you.

CALLER: On commercial aircraft are two systems to locate it in case of a crash.  One is the ELT [Emergency Locator Transmitter]; one is the underwater acoustic beacon.  The ELT is totally separate from the acoustic beacon. It is not attached to the data voice recorder.   ELT transmits on 243 and 121.5 megahertz.  That is UHF and VHF emergency frequency.  It is designed not to go off in less than 3G impact.

RUSH:  Okay, so how does this relate to the Malaysian crash?

CALLER:  Since the ELT did not go off, it's assumed to crash in water, 'cause if it goes into water, the ELT will not work.  It's like a regular radio.  It goes in water, and it gets mucked up.  The underwater acoustic beacon only goes off if it goes into water.

RUSH:  Okay.  So you mean there's nothing conspiratorial, then, that the ELT didn't go off?

CALLER:  Correct.

RUSH:  It's quite normal that it won't go off when it hits water 'cause it won't operate in water?

CALLER:  Correct.  Now, however, it is a line-of-sight radio, which means you have to be within, you know, three or four hundred miles to hear it.

RUSH:  Well, line of sight would have been quite a ways.  Anyway, look, don't worry about it.  CNN is gonna get the truth for us.  CNN will eventually get the truth in 2018 or 2019.



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