Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Risk Management


Do we know what we don’t know?


Stemming from this study, there are now five sacred safety rules in cave diving that have, according to cave divers, significantly changed and improved the safety record in cave diving:

1  Be trained for cave diving and remain within the limits of your training.
2  Maintain a continuous guide to the cave exit.
3  Keep two-thirds of your starting gas volume in reserve to exit the cave.
4  Remain within the safest possible operating limits for your breathing media.
5  Use three sources of light.

The idea is if you follow all of the rules, your chance of survival is 100%. If you ignore one of the rules, your odds go down by 20% and your chance of survival is only 80%. Ignore two, and your odds go down to 60%. Ignore three, and it gets scarier. What a fine example of risk management! Can we use this model to help manage risk in aviation this way?

Let’s substitute the five safety rules in cave diving with aviation tenets:

1  Be trained for flying and remain within the limits of your training.
2  Maintain a continuous monitoring of fuel levels and safe operating limits.
3  Keep one-quarter of your starting fuel capacity in reserve to guarantee a safe landing.
4  Remain within the safest possible operating limits for your type of airplane and equipment.
5  Make sure to leave yourself an out.

What are your odds when you get in your airplane? Are they 100%? Would you start the engine if you thought you and your passengers had only an 80% chance of surviving the flight? If your odds aren’t 100% for every flight and every phase of the flight, then stay on the ground and figure out how to make the odds work for you.

Patty Wagstaff is a six-time member of the U.S. Aerobatic team, and a three-time U.S. National Aerobatic champion. She flies for the California Department of Forestry during the summer months. Visit www.pattywagstaff.com.

What Is Each Flight Worth To You?

Another way of looking at risk is to ask, “What is this flight worth to you?” As experienced old-hand tanker pilot, Jimmy Barnes, says, “Risk nothing to save nothing, and risk a lot to save a lot. That’s how you measure risk. If you’re risking your life to save another life, that’s one thing. If you’re risking your life to save a pile of brush, that’s nuts.” We aren’t flying general aviation in a war, and we generally aren’t saving lives, so why take a bigger risk at getting there than we need to?


Resources
Nall Report
www.aopa.org/asf/publications/10nall.pdf

FAA Preliminary Accident And Incident Reports
www.faa.gov/data_research/accident_incident/preliminary_data/

NTSB Accident Reports
http://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/reports_aviation.html







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