2011 FAA Safety Standdown

Safety Standdowns can be a good idea, but only if you take advantage of what they are designed to do. Many times in my previous life (military), aircrew would complain about taking a down day to talk about safety related topics. Instead, we would rather be flying; after all we had a great safety record. But thanks to our hard working safety staff, they were able to focus our attention on critical areas that resulted in us maintaining a pristine flying safety record. We emphasized the positive things we did and examined the areas that needed improvement. These times of slowing down and taking a hard look at the way we did business caused me to be more safety conscious in every area of my flying career. That’s why I am a fan of Safety Standdowns; I really hate hearing about accidents that could have been prevented and this time of reflection may have prevented one or more news stories of the unfortunate kind.

Below are the areas under scrutiny this year.

Positive Flight Attitude: Keeping Your Standards High.

Professionalism should characterize every action you take as a pilot. Approach every flight as if your life depends on it—because it does. It doesn’t matter what acronym you use to ensure a safe flight, what does matter is that you are thorough and precise from pre-flight to post-flight. There may be times when you are in a hurry, but I learned a long time ago that sometimes “slower is faster”, and I would also add “safer”. In addition, I also encourage every pilot to elevate your personal standards; this will ensure you don’t take unnecessary risks.

Going Beyond Preflight: Perfecting Your Preflight Inspection.

A proper preflight is always a crucial part of a safe flight. It’s more than using a checklist; a good preflight should test how well you know your aircraft and its systems. In addition, familiarity with the capabilities of your aircraft will keep you from “writing checks” your airplane can’t cash. Another particular area of interest to me is the preflight planning. It is during this process that we learn exactly what the aircraft flight characteristics will be (among other things). We learn about the stability, controllability, and maneuverability of the aircraft for that day. It’s important to remember that these variables change on every flight and may make the difference between a successful and unsuccessful mission one day.

En Route Cruise: Steering Clear of VFR into IMC.

Pay attention and do the right thing, even when no one is looking. Precision piloting demands staying on altitude, on heading, and on task. Professional pilots are intentional with regard to their actions. They are more concerned with how they judge their own performance than what others might say or think (even though we all like to be complimented from time to time). The number of pilots who inadvertently (or intentionally without fear of harm) fly into weather conditions they are not qualified or capable of safely flying in remains high; and the deadly results are still historically the same. Personally, I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror each morning and be proud of the actions I have taken. I encourage you to do the same.

Maneuvering Flight: Slow, Steady, and Sure.

Always remember that attention to airspeed is critical. Loss of control in maneuvering flight often results from inattention to airspeed. The flight envelope for the aircraft we fly is reasonably permissive; however, our ability as pilots or the rules that govern our operations may prevent us from exploring the breadth and depth of that envelope. If I had my way, my aircraft would have more thrust than I ever needed for any and all situations; that thrust would be my out for the misjudgments that I might have made. Unfortunately that is not the case for me. I must know the limits of my aircraft and myself. I must also operate within the regulations even if my aircraft and my personal abilities are capable of operating outside the boundaries of the rules. We can’t allow ourselves “to go where no man has gone before”, especially if we weren’t planning on going there. We must stay ahead of the airplane and make it do what you want it to do. My advice is this; don’t be a passenger, be the pilot-in-command.

Even if you don’t participate is a scheduled, and organized Safety Standdown event, it doesn’t mean that you can’t reflect on how you do business in airplanes. You can do this by yourself or with a friend or two. The lives that most of us lead are very busy but taking the time to reflect on the safety aspects of our flying may save our life one day. Fly safe!!!


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