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
4 THE 4-1-1 ON 9-1-1s Just because you’re familiar with emergency procedures in one airplane, don’t assume other similar airplanes use the same checklist. Know the emergency procedures for your specific airplane. Contrary to what you might think, emergency rules differ from one airplane to the next, and you need to know exactly what provisions apply to the airplane you’re flying. For example, everyone knows one of the first things you do in a twin if an engine quits on takeoff is clean up the airplane, right? Not necessarily. The Cessna Skymaster manual suggests you leave the wheels down following an engine failure near the ground, as opening the gear doors in the belly introduces a temporary climb loss of several hundred feet per minute. Better to wait until you’re well above the ground before you even consider hiding the wheels.
In addition, check out the emergency section of each plane’s POH. It includes emergency checklists with bolded items that should be committed to memory. Doing something as simple as this now could be a huge lifesaver to you later on.
5 WEIGHT AND BALANCE...AND BALANCE CG may be one of aviation’s most boring subjects, but it’s also one of the most critical. As one who flies regular international delivery flights at weights well over gross, I can attest that balance is, by far, the most important consideration of weight and balance. That’s not to suggest that weight doesn’t matter, but it’s possible to fly an airplane far over gross without losing control. I’ve flown airplanes at 30% above the recommended max gross weight (under the provisions of a special airworthiness certificate and a ferry permit), as much as 2,000 pounds over gross, and I know of one flight during which the airplane was operating at 100% over gross. Max Conrad, the pilot, acknowledged that the Comanche “wasn’t very enthusiastic,” but it was controllable. Load the airplane well outside the acceptable envelope and you may not even get off the ground. Similarly, a separate weight and balance may be necessary both before takeoff and before landing, as the CG may shift aft as the fuel is burned off. The Bonanza family of singles can require two weight-and-balance calculations if you hope to depart and arrive inside the CG.
6 CHECK MATE Like weight and balance, checklists aren’t very exciting, but they can save your life. As with most pilots, I was taught to use checklists early on, then drifted away from them as I became older, more experienced and less intelligent. A few years ago, I began flying medium twins and turboprops on a more regular basis and was dragged, kicking and screaming, back into using checklists. There’s little question that life becomes far easier once you know you’ve covered every item on the checklist, really covered it, not just paid it lip service with a rote call and response procedure. No, a checklist isn’t a guarantee you won’t have problems, but at least your error is less likely to be one of omission. Again, the aircraft’s POH is a good resource to go to for any checklists you might need, from engine startup to shutdown.
7 REIN IN YOUR HORSES Your engine is your best friend. Treat it accordingly. Personally, I’m a big fan of GAMIjectors and engine analyzers and any other device that will improve performance and give me more analytical tools in my Mooney, but I realize renters may not have many choices in engine-analysis equipment. With or without all the goodies, it’s important to remember that normal operating procedures for each engine may be dramatically different, even within the same make, horsepower and model. Differences in cowling fit, induction systems and other factors may affect operating procedures. Use of fuel pumps and cowl flaps, engine-leaning techniques, climb power settings and a dozen other procedures vary with different manufacturers, so once again, it’s important to make certain you understand the specific operating procedures for your engine.