December was filled with ice and snow, and we had extremely cold temperatures until mid-January. And now we are well into January and the temperatures seem…well, normal. It truly is all relative. Despite that, it is still a great time to fly, and it is also a great time to begin working improving your flying and ground safety practices.
In about 80% of aircraft accidents, the aircraft itself is working fine until controlled flight into terrain, stalls, spins, runway incursion accidents, or loss of control takes place. Through all of these situations there is one very important and common link. That link is the “pilot.” The pilot is the one in charge of the flight. From the first moment beginning with the walk-around, to taxi, to flight, to landing, to shutdown and securing the aircraft on the ramp, the pilot-in-command IS the responsible party.
Everything related to the safe operation of that aircraft in all phases of flight must be done with forethought, intelligence, sound judgment, and care. It matters little whether you are flying a J-3 or an A-380, the principles and basic rules of flight are the same. You, as the pilot-in-command, are responsible! Thus, you are a primary key to safety in aviation.
As the pilot-in-command you should always use sound safety practices before, during, and after your flights. Too many people become complacent when doing the walk-around for instance, and fail to use their checklist. That one simple item you missed by failing to use your checklist at the outset could be the first item in a chain-of-causation that can bring your flight to a very unpleasant end.
So make sure to plan well before you fly and stay alert when you are flying. Get a concise weather briefing before you take off. Be sure to use your checklist when doing your walk-around. Remember to close your flight plan, and before you shut down check 121.5/406 MHz to be sure your ELT hasn’t accidentally turned on.
Take advantage of this time of the year to review your aircraft pilot operating handbook (POH), the Federal Aviation Regulations-Aeronautical Information Manual (FAR-AIM), your emergency checklist and more. Attend several FAASTeam safety seminars. Spend time reviewing the basics. It might surprise you what you have actually forgotten. Also go to your favorite fixed base operation or flight school and sign up for a few hours of simulator time. You won’t regret it.
Remember, winter is the perfect time for all pilots, but especially seasonal pilots, to revisit the basics. Now you can reignite that aviator spirit when reviewing and preparing good safety techniques and practices for flight, as the new year begins.