May 2009 Issue

Practicing For Emergencies (Without Going Broke)

We all need more practice, but balance our finances against the likelihood of “something bad” happening. Thinking through all those bad things is a good compromise.

One of the sad realities of general aviation becomes apparent upon reading a score or so NTSB accident reports: While true in-flight emergencies are rare, pilots who do not fly for a living have a less-than-stellar record of success when they stare one in the face. It is a blunt corollary to the simple fact that anything a human doesn’t practice regularly doesn’t get done well the next time it’s needed. That’s why pilots who take recurrent training every six months tend to have far, far fewer accidents than pilots who only grudgingly take a flight review every 24. No matter how we try to sweep the mess under the rug, skills atrophy fast and anything we don’t practice regularly we, sadly, screw up. Those who study human behavior have long been telling us this stuff, they just use bigger words. We know it. We know perfectly well that if we are faced with an emergency when we go flying tomorrow that how we handle it has already been determined. If we’ve thought about that particular emergency (or one very similar) and how we will deal with it, the odds of handling it correctly are astronomically higher than if we haven’t given it any thought. If we’ve actually rehearsed dealing with the emergency in the last six months, the odds that we’ll deal with it correctly go way, way up. Being human, we do well what we do often. We do landings all the time. We don’t do fires in flight nearly as frequently.

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