From the Right Seat
by Assistant Chief Pilot Peter Rafle
The Safety Corner
I recently had a conversation with a pilot about the issue of risk
taking. I expressed my ambition of, one day,being the oldest living pilot.We discussed how as individual pilots approach flying and the matter of risk. Aviation is, as the old saying goes,”Like the sea, unforgiving of the slightest error.”
If flying is by nature “risky”, then we aviators should be deliberate, careful,thoughtful of all the potential problems that could affect our flight. Flight instructors begin,on the first day of instruction, to school students on the use of checklists, conducting a thorough pre-flight inspection, getting the latest weather, and then working on decision making using PAVE, IMSAFE, and other methods.
We want all student pilots to become confident in their ability to
control the airplane. But,we want every pilot to be able to also assemble all the information essential to making the decision that this particular flight can be flown safely. It is this development of decision making that is the most important of all the instruction given to student pilots.
After earning that private pilot certificate,and then adding the instrument rating and perhaps a commercial pilot rating, the decision making process must continue to be monitored, evaluated and repeatedly emphasized. During the Biennial Fight Review,the instructor should review the type of flying the pilot has been doing and discuss how he/she approaches flight planning and risk assessment.It is here that potentially dangerous habits that have started to develop can be recognized and remediated .It is easy
to become complacent and less disciplined in preparation for each flight. An example is the Gulf stream flight crew that attempted a take off with the control lock still in place, ending in a burning wreak at the end of the runway.
One way to live a long time as a pilot is to establish you own personal minima for weather. Consistent with the FARs: What visibility and ceilings are you comfortable with? VFR reserve rules call for a reserve of one half hour. How much do you feel comfortable having on board? What about crosswinds?
When was the last time you had to land in a strong crosswind? How much is too much for you? During the run-up, do you pay close attention to the mag drop values? the idle rpm?oil pressure and temperature? Are the radios working well? How do you feel?How is the airplane? How is the weather?Where do I go if an engine fails on takeoff? Oh, when was the last time you practiced simulated engine out approaches and landings?
I hope you get my point.Your safety and that of your passengers depends on you and your attitude about flying. Decide that you will one day be the world’s oldest living pilot,and you just might achieve it!
BE safe,have fun flying