Wed, Nov 22, 2006
A good pilot is always learning -- how many times have you heard
this old standard throughout your flying career? There is no truer
statement in all of flying (well, with the possible exception of
"there are no old, bold pilots.")
Aero-News has called upon the expertise of Thomas P. Turner,
master CFI and all-around-good-guy, to bring our readers -- and us
-- daily tips to improve our skills as aviators. Some of them, you
may have heard before... but for each of us, there will also be
something we might never have considered before, or something that
didn't "stick" the way it should have the first time we memorized
it for the practical test.
Look for our daily Aero-Tips segments, coming each day to you
through the Aero-News Network.
There are several factors that may affect a pilot's ability to
respond correctly to an abnormal or emergency situation:
- Denial. Pilots are generally optimistic by
nature, and may deny a problem exists when the indications
- Example: A student of mine could not believe that his
50-total-time-since-new engine failed in flight, requiring me to
take the controls and guide us toward a safe landing. The situation
seemed so unlikely in my student's mind that, when it occurred, he
simply refused to accept it.
- Distraction. Other tasks may demand the
pilot's attention, so that he/she does not respond to an
- Example: Air Traffic Control calls and vectors were so
frequent for me on climbout one day that I forgot to lean the
mixture after leveling off, and flew about 20 minutes at "full
rich" before catching it-which could have led to a fuel exhaustion
accident if I were flying a maximum-endurance mission.
- Omission. Indications that should be obvious
- Example: On a training cross-country flight I
surreptitiously pulled the compass slaving system circuit breaker.
A red flag appeared on the directional gyro portion of the
Horizontal Situation Indicator (HSI); the Stormscope slaving went
off line and the autopilot quit. My student took over to hand-fly
but did not notice the failed heading indicator (and its red flag)
until nearly five minutes later.
- Expectation. Just because something has
happened one way every time to date does not mean it will
inevitably turn out the same way the next time.
- Example: Many, many pilots get in the habit of saying
"three green" aloud upon extending retractable landing gear, but
sometimes they make the "three green" callout before the gear is
finished extending. They "see" (or at least say) three green lights
because they expect that will be the result.
- Fear. Fear of damaging the airplane may
paralyze a pilot's thought processes or encourage an inappropriate
- Example: A pilot loses an engine on takeoff and begins
an immediate return to the departure runway even when there's not
enough altitude to safely make it back.
Combat this impediments to safety with:
- Acceptance that problems may arise.
- Confirmation of necessary tasks by using printed checklists as
a back-up to memory procedures in all phases of flight.
- Cross-checking indications to ensure nothing abnormal
- Verification of indications through reliable and
- Prioritization of tasks and actions to ensure a safe outcome,
with the airplane itself being expendable.
Aero-tip of the day: Recognize the
psychological impediments to properly dealing with an abnormal or
emergency situation, and take active steps to combat the causes of
bad emergency decision-making.
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