Tuesday, February 1, 2005
The 10 Commandments Of Aviation Safety
There are some things you should absolutely positively know about any airplane you’re flying before you even start the engine
|Safety has always been a tough sell. Ask Bruce Landsburg of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation. Landsburg has been in the safety business for 25 years, having worked for FlightSafety in Wichita, Kan., before moving to AOPA. “The sad thing is,” says Landsburg, “much of the time, safety consciousness is a direct result of an accident post-mortem.” |
Safety has always been a tough sell. Ask Bruce Landsburg of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation. Landsburg has been in the safety business for 25 years, having worked for FlightSafety in Wichita, Kan., before moving to AOPA. “The sad thing is,” says Landsburg, “much of the time, safety consciousness is a direct result of an accident post-mortem.”
“In too many instances, pilots learn to fly, then stop learning until it’s time for their biennial flight review. It’s important to revisit those principles we all learned in primary flight training but may have forgotten,” comments Landsburg.
Some of the following may seem self-evident, but it represents realities too often ignored and truths too often forgotten. For more information on these and other subjects related to aviation safety, I highly recommend Barry Schiff’s series of books, Proficient Pilot, Vols. I, II and III. A retired TWA L-1011 captain, Schiff has been my mentor for 20 years and has forgotten more about flying than most of us will ever learn.
1 PREP BEFORE THE REV Many pilots assume that a proper preflight consists of merely walking around the airplane, checking fuel and oil levels and making certain everything is firmly attached. That’s only one of several aspects of preflight. In fact, there are at least four considerations of the preflight, three of which should happen long before you leave for the airport. Prior to taking the left seat, a pilot should determine whether he or she is physically and mentally up to the job of flying. This may be the toughest of the four tasks to accomplish, especially for pilots who have been flying for years and whose habits are locked in cement. Checking weather is such an obvious consideration, it should be automatic, but some pilots need reminding that weather at the destination may be nothing at all like that at the point of departure. The rule is, when in doubt, don’t go. Route planning is far more important than you might imagine. Some pilots who have been flying to and from most of the same places for years become unjustifiably cavalier about route planning. Always leave yourself an out by considering where you’d go and what you’d do if… Finally, once the other three considerations are satisfied, the last aspect of preflight is the airplane.
2 FEED ON SPEED “Maintain thy airspeed lest the Earth rise up and smite thee.” Airspeed is the currency of aviation. Speed is, after all, the reason most of us fly. If we’re doing it right, we rotate, lift off, climb, descend, approach and land by strict adherence to airspeed limits. Most pilots know the easy numbers for their airplane (VY, VX, Vne), but how many know the others—Vr (rotate), Vle (landing gear extended), Vfe (flaps extended), Vso (gear and full flap stall—61 knots or less on most certified piston singles), Va (maneuvering speed), etc.? How many understand the relationship between weight and maneuvering speed? (Va decreases as weight decreases.) How many know the two best glide speeds, distance and endurance, respectively?
3 MAXIMIZE MINIMUMS It may seem self-evident, but minimums should be treated as exactly that—minimums. Don’t assume that IFR minimums are simply guidelines from which you can deviate as situations dictate. If anything, minimums often can be a little low for conditions, rather than too high. Under some circumstances, many pilots, this one included, will add 100 or 200 feet to the published MDA or DH, especially when there are obstacles around, unstable weather or other extenuating circumstances. The airport at Narsarsuaq, Greenland, is at the end of a 42-mile-long fjord, completely surrounded by mountains, and the only published approach, an NDB-DME, has minimums of 1,800 and four. Personally, I wouldn’t even consider shooting that approach. I’ve come up the fjord using the cloud break procedure in VFR conditions, descending beneath the clouds over the water west of the island and flying to the airport visually, but I’ll leave hard-IFR approaches into Narsarsuaq to braver souls.