There is a truism in aviation that flying requires safety and there is nothing funny about safety. While stern in appearance, this is not the same as saying there is no fun in flying. If there weren’t, why would we pursue flying in the first place? Ask any pilot and you get stories of flying adventures, feelings of freedom in the air, and pure “joie de vivre” through flight. Safety, and the procedures required for it, are part of the aviation process. Redundancies are part of the pre-flight check, general aviation safety and FAA regulations.
Any flight, whether a short hop to an adjoining airfield, or a long jaunt cross-country, requires a pre-flight check. Too often, pilots become complacent and do a perfunctory pre-flight. This is a dangerous attitude and one that needs to be checked at the door. Make a list for your aircraft and stick to it, each and every time. The pre-flight needs to include sumping and checking the fuel, checking oil levels, feeling tightness on the belts, looking for any bends or compromises in the air frame, a full check of the landing gear, and going over the empennage and ailerons. The pitot tubes must be checked for debris and any “remove before flight” tags removed. This list is a basic outline, and with each different aircraft there may be more items to go over. The notion of “familiarity breeds contempt” changes to “familiarity leads to laziness” as many pilots may develop bad habits when carrying out pre-flight checks on familiar aircraft. For safety’s sake do not compromise on the pre-flight check.
Pilot Attitudes Towards Safety
There are several attitude “killers” in aviation, and all of them need to be addressed, recognized and corrected if you wish to be a safe pilot who lives to fly another day. Ask any Alaska bush pilot and you hear the adage “there are old pilots, and bold pilots, but there are no old and bold pilots.” Having too much sense of bravado or invincibility leads to poor decisions and an over-inflated sense of skills. This is not to say you should not recognize or admit aptitude, but there is a fine line between competence and cockiness.
The Safety Killing Attitudes
Among the attitudes that contribute the most to declining safety are outlined below. Learn how to recognize these in yourself and fellow aviators so that you are able to correct them before you get into trouble:
Anti-Authority: When an anti-authority stance is taken, “cowboy” attitudes envelope decision-making. Contrary to popular opinion, the FAA is not here to ruin our day, the agency’s rules are there for a reason. In order to keep all of us safe, each of us is duty bound to follow rules.
Resignation: By taking this tact, you give up before you begin. Look around at most aviators and you see confidence and aptitude. However, when resignation appears, self-fulfilling prophecies swallow good piloting decisions.
Invincibility: The idea you are not going to have any accidents or you possess some sort of magic aura that protects you from all things bad. Get over it. Bad things can and will happen to you with this attitude.
Rashness: Impulsive decisions lead to errors. Take the time to think out your moves and choices. Even in emergency situations, the difference between a one or two second breath and immediate reactions often leads to better decisions. Slow down.
Machismo/Bravado: This is not limited to men only. This attitude has the potential to affect female pilot decisions as well. Ask yourself why are you up here flying. Is it to have bragging rights or to show off, or is it for the pure love of flying? Leave the ego at the door and just fly.
In Flight Safety
When in the air, you need to be familiar with the many facets of safe flight. Knowing the proper altitude to fly at (are you flying east or west?), how to communicate on the radio, use a chart, and recognize lights and markers are essential (and part of any pilot’s training).
When in doubt, call and ask for help. There are many resources for safety while on the ground or in the air. Examples include:
Aircraft Emergency 121.5
Talk to ATC
Knowing how weather behaves, what the topography does to influence the weather and how the airplane reacts or is affected by weather is important for safe flight. Go through a full weather briefing before flights, using any ASIS, or weather resource available at your location. Charts have this information and with Internet empowered devices, pilots have access to weather and changing conditions at the tips of their fingers.
Plan contingencies if mountain flying and go over the route prior to taking to the air. Foreknowledge is power and power is safety. Keep charts at the ready, or electronic devices programmed with the charts and left on the home screen.
Come Home and Enjoy Safe Flight
Safety is not boring or the realm of worriers. Safety is the key to fun flying. May the wind be on your tail and the sky blue.