172 on short final
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172 on short final

If I could just give you one more thing to think about – “Don’t damage the brand!”

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.

Fuel gauges getting low

One good way to avoid an engine-out landing? Don’t run out of fuel.

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.

Cessna 182 climbing over clouds

Most of us cannot keep the shiny side up for long in a cloud if we are not trained and current.

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.

Checklist use

Part of protecting the brand is to use the checklist, every time.

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!

Stephen Lane
Latest posts by Stephen Lane (see all)
10 replies
  1. Dennis
    Dennis says:

    No one is perfect. Perhaps next time we could examine the more problematic ways that the FAA damages the brand of aviation?

  2. Jim Baldwin
    Jim Baldwin says:

    Excellent article. I firmly believe that (followed) checklists have “saved my bacon” more than once.
    It is actually a sense of satisfaction to complete a checklist and feel safer about the intended flight.

  3. Joe Subits
    Joe Subits says:

    I like the oldie but goodies that we have been talking about for decades and should continue to do so going forward but I think we need to expand the conversation significantly for the 21st century. It seems like we’ve returned to the 1920’s with the ever increasing number of crazy and inherently dangerous stunts that are being undertaken, recorded on video and blasted out Worldwide on every social media platform available. I was shocked recently when the apparent encore to the Red Bull Air Racing series, which featured highly capable aerobatic and racing pilots morphed into two idiots pointing recklessly modified Cessnas straight towards the ground, then departed them with parachutes on in attempt to swap aircraft in freefall, before anyone or anything hit the ground. All done for product publicity and internet fame. Follow that with an unsponsored internet “influencer” faking an engine failure, departing the aircraft, parachuting to the ground while filming the crash, then hiking to the crash site like some sort of crash martyr victim and later returning to haul off, cut up and dispose of the evidence. All for internet fame. It’s this type of blatant stupidity that is sending the wrong message to the up and coming youth that we desperately need to resolve the global pilot shortage.

    • Sean Siff
      Sean Siff says:

      Hi Joe, you’re absolutely right that there has been some YouTube videos that have damaged the pilot brand. I also scratched my head at the RedBull airplane swap. However, I think it is important to remember that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of responsibly filmed YouTube videos from pilots who create valuable training and storytelling. Those pilots introduce and motivate people to become new pilots or go for that next rating. I think it is a case of not letting a bad apple spoil the bunch. There are many responsible content creators helping to motivate the next generation of GA pilots.

  4. Karrpilot
    Karrpilot says:

    I once got distracted by a cloud burst coming into the pattern of my target destination airport. I couldn’t see anything. Not only due to the rain, but it splattered the 6 hours of built up bugs on the windshield. I have never experienced this, and hope to never repeat it either.

  5. R. Dundas
    R. Dundas says:

    Great article that makes an excellent point. Like most pilots, I read accident reports every chance I get because of the great lessons they provide on what not to do when flying. Sadly, the overwhelming theme is pilot error, where the pilot does exactly what he/she was trained not to do. Simple things that are so easy to avoid. As mentioned in the comments, nobody’s perfect. But we CAN do better. All of us should step into the cockpit with the awareness that flying can be dangerous, or it can be done safely. Let’s choose safely and focus on doing things by the book, the way we were trained, every time. Imagine, if we could eliminate 50% of the accidents caused by gross pilot error. Lives would be saved, our accident statistics would be incredibly better, and GA aviations reputation greatly improved. If we just follow our training I believe this is possible.

  6. Vliet
    Vliet says:

    Maintaining the pilot brand’s integrity is crucial. When considering innovative energy solutions, the hydrogen executor emerges as a game-changer. Its sustainable approach aligns perfectly with the brand’s commitment to excellence.


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