More New Year Flying
So, you made through the holidays, and you still have your medical and your credit cards. The plane is safely tucked away for the coldest part of the winter (mine goes into annual inspection) while you get to catch up on paying the bills, and doing some armchair flying. Was it a great flying year? Did you accomplish your flying goals? Perhaps you took some kids up, maybe took a great cross-country trip with a friend, or maybe earned a new rating. Now is the time to plot and scheme your flying adventures for 2009. Let no dream go unfulfilled.
One resolution we all can make is to fly safer. It takes work; it doesn’t just happen, or is just ‘luck’. Good pilots make a conscious effort to improve their performance and to reduce their risks. Many of the sad situations we read about happening to other pilots are so preventable. Just one example: read the FAA website tally of daily incidents and accidents, and marvel at the number of planes that experience wheel or brake or steering problems upon takeoff. Why did the wheel fall off when the plane rotated? What a surprise!! Better yet is when the gear collapses on the takeoff roll. What a great job the pilot did performing the pre-flight inspection! Happens every day. I wonder why?
As pilot in command, you alone are responsible for the maintenance condition and airworthiness of the aircraft you are about to fly. You may hire an A&P to fix your plane and sign it off as airworthy, but you are solely responsible. This may be clearer when you are the aircraft owner, but we need to be reminded that it applies to rental aircraft as well. Your life, and those of your passengers, depends completely on the quality of your preflight inspection. It is the final link in the checks and balances maintenance chain. Many folks try to assist in a plane’s annual inspection in order to learn and see what is correct and what is askew; many folks were not taught well regarding what to look for and how to recognize a mechanical problem in the making.
The aircraft POH may be insufficient; you may have to augment the preflight inspection section with your own knowledge and experience. Being in a hurry certainly doesn’t help matters either. Sometimes we can look at something, and not see the obvious fault, because we were expecting to see the normal situation. Same thing happens with radio calls and ATC clearances: we hear what we expected, not what was actually said. Happens with kids too. Best to assume everything is not right, and confirm correctness.
You won’t sleep better at night, but you will start a flight with less risk.
Safe flights don’t just happen; we make them happen. So lower the risk at the beginning of the day by not making any assumptions about the condition of the aircraft. Trust (your mechanic), but verify. At least give yourself a chance early on. Performing a thorough runup and complete systems check before taking the active runway is another risk mitigation move: there are few old, bold pilots for many good reasons. This is one of them.
Common Cause - Each of us has a stake in the outcome of every flight, not only our own, but those of our fellow pilots. If we fly poorly, it reflects on all of us as a community; just watch the way the media reports aviation mishaps. This doesn’t even include the physical and emotional costs of those involved. Best to avoid these events at all costs. Safe flying doesn’t just happen; we make it happen, or not. What will your resolution be for the New Year?
By Mike Sullivan, COM SMEL, CFI, MEI, INSTRI, Msull77554@aol.com KHEF