I started my lessons (at 50 years old!) at an airport called Howell-New Lenox in Illinois. On my first solo, I had to go around due to a back taxi by another student with his instructor (my first exposure to being PIC in a two-pilot operation. But I was cool; I also learned that I was pretty calm in an abnormal situation-when Im alone.
As someone whos researched my share of aviation accident reports over the years, its frustrating to dissect those reports and pick out the various missteps made and the points at which a change in direction, a precautionary landing or other mitigation would have altered the outcome. Loyal readers of this journal understand that aviation accidents arent preordained and, instead, often result from a complex series of events occurring over time. Its often called the accident chain, a term recognizing how these events are linked. Often, individual events occurring in an accident chain, by themselves, would not result in a new accident report. The accident chain concept has great value, but Ive come to think of it as a trajectory instead of a chain.
By the time you read this, itll be late September or early October. In some regions of the U.S., that means leaves changing color, frost on the pumpkin and winterizing the house, the vehicles and the airplane. In other regions, like where I am, it means shutting off the air conditioning, opening the windows and putting a final close cut on the yard. Cooler, better flying weather, along with some seasonal challenges, likely will confront us all soon.
Many of todays workplaces seek to create a formalized safety culture, an environment where employees practice behaviors that minimize accidents, look out for their co-workers and where reporting unsafe conditions is encouraged, not subject to retaliation, and frequently rewarded. It can be a great goal, but it often creates an exaggerated sense of safety where people need safety training to use a power strip and posters about how to get out of a car without tripping. The goal of creating a safety culture often ends up a corporate farce, since the best safety cultures are not created by artifice, but happen naturally because people really care.
My Debonair had to go to the avionics shop recently for its 24-month pitot/static and transponder checks, and to diagnose an autopilot that wouldnt. As I feared, autopilot system components had to go out for factory attention, and the removal work would take longer than my schedule allowed. So I left the airplane and Uberd home. Before I had the free time to retrieve the airplane, my part of Florida was seeing a constant flow of moisture and showers coming in from the Gulf of Mexico.
People wouldnt fly personal aircraft-or participate in many other activities-if there werent benefits. Thats human nature. Some benefits we seek by taking risks are intangible and hard to quantify. Others can be readily identified and weighted. Its a calculus we all employ daily in mundane ways. However, the problem isnt that we fail to assess benefits when we analyze risk. Instead, the issue is the inaccurate values we assign on both sides of the equation.
A favorite pastime is surfing the online used airplane ads. I check the market value of what I already own, Im interested in whats available if I wanted to trade up and Im curious about obvious trends in used airplanes. Its a non-scientific exercise, but one from which I can draw some conclusions.
The Commonwealth of Virginia requires motor vehicles to undergo annual safety inspections. An authorized mechanic checks the lights, horn, brakes, tires, steering, suspension, etc., to make sure theyre within service limits (sound familiar?). In neighboring Maryland, on the other hand, just one safety inspection is required, when a vehicle is initially registered. After that, its up to the owner to keep track of treadwear, brake pad thickness, headlight alignment and many other items receiving scrutiny in Virginia.
For the last few years, my home airport has been a private, paved and lighted strip in a rural area. The pilot-controlled lighting is non-standard, however. For one, the systems intensity is relatively weak. For another, there seem to be fewer runway lights than at most other airports Ive used. And the light fixtures themselves seem located farther from the pavement than Im accustomed. Often, there are few other ground lights in the area to help provide perspective at night.
If youre an aircraft owner like me, you enjoy rolling up your sleeves and tackling various tasks to help maintain or preserve your airborne conveyance. Those tasks can be as simple as a wash and wax, or more complicated, like an engine oil and filter change, or other preventive maintenance (PM) items allowed in FAR 43s Appendix A. And if youre also busy like me, you may find it difficult to work these projects into your schedule. One result is starting a PM project and not having time to finish it. Thats a place I find myself.
Long-time readers may recall my earlier screeds about the threat of privatizing the nations air traffic control system. The most serious attempt to privatize ATC is found in legislation pending before the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 2997, the 21st Century Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization Act, or simply the 21st Century AIRR Act. In addition to privatizing the U.S. ATC system, the bill funds FAA programs for a multiyear period.
Despite all the gloom and doom about piston-powered general aviations future youve probably heard lately around the FBOs coffee pot, the industry actually isnt doing too badly. Three data points that became available late in 2017 bear this out.