Congratulations you are a pilot! Welcome to this very small and unique group. You are one of the very few who is able to master life in 3D. You should be very proud of your skills. Now, if I could just give you one more thing to think about – “Don’t damage the brand!”
Everything we deal with in life has a “personality” attached to it. Stores we do business with, products we buy, even friends and coworkers with whom we interact, all have character traits associated to them. High-quality, great service, great food, good for the environment, borrows stuff and never returns it, terms like that. Companies have advertising, marketing, management and most employees, all working hard to embed positive character traits into their product. General Aviation is the same. All of us pilots are functioning as brand ambassadors of the general aviation (GA) business to the public. We need to strive to make sure everyone sees our brand in a positive light.
When something happens in GA, the public gets the impression that either small GA airplanes are made with bubble gum and paper clips and they stay in the air like Fred Flintstone runs his car, or we are reckless, and, as a group, not that smart to have done what we did. No matter what happened it doesn’t do any of us any good. And if we continue to screw up, then we get to see more of the government who are “here to help”.
We’ve all heard, read or seen reports on accidents. Straight up accidents are going to be a consistent part of living life and there is probably nothing we can do about some of those. But the avoidable things are what we really can change.
Running out of gas
So how often do you run out of gas in a car? Ever? Maybe picture yourself out with friends at a party and you offer up to the group that you ran your car out of gas last week. Is this a story you want to tell to others? Kind of makes you look not so smart? Most of the fun and excitement in flying is taking off and landings. Straight and level is really not that fun. If you have to land to get some gas, that is a bonus. If you are of a certain age, you can also use the time to go to the bathroom. Win, win.
Flying without checking the weather
With the internet resources, tablets and the ease of calling an 800 number, there’s no reason not to get the weather. Especially to get NOTAMs, TFRs or an update on what is not working on your route or at your destination.
VFR into IMC
I will assume we are talking daylight hours and also assume you checked the weather so didn’t you see it coming? How did this happen? Did the clouds sneak up on you? Were you flying along and the cloud came up behind you and engulfed the airplane? Ok, now that you are in it, execute a 180 or engage the autopilot, but just get out of it. You have probably seen the statistics. Most of us cannot keep the shiny side up for long in a cloud if we are not trained and current. And about 30% of the guys that get into IMC, do have their IFR rating. They might be out of currency, but let’s not overthink it and avoid the scenario. And if you do happen to find yourself in that situation, just get out and if you need help, ask.
Stall and spin in the pattern
In a nutshell, bad things happen when you approach stall speed and you are not about 18’’ above the runway or less. We all know this from our primary training. With increased bank, load goes up and so does stall speed. Keep the speed appropriate and minimize the banks. If something feels wrong, just go around. Again there is more upside for you meaning more flight time.
Use the checklist
For some of us lucky enough to have more than one airplane to fly, it is easy to get mixed up on technique and procedures for different airplanes. Airplanes are not like cars, most operate a little bit differently from one another. Does this one need a fuel pump on for takeoff? Fuel boost on low or high? Do you use flaps for takeoff? If so, partial flaps? I don’t know about you, but I cannot keep track of more than one airplane. And if three weeks have gone by, you might have forgotten already, so use the checklist.
There is more, and I’m sure you have a list of critical items to note, but the moral of the story is that we all need to try to do our best. Just remember, don’t damage the brand!