We have highlighted many amazing technological tools available to pilots in recent blog articles (and the significant savings available to SAFE members). These advances in technology for efficient planning are continually amazing but also occasionally overwhelming. By correctly using a familiar app, several clicks can plan a flight, incorporate the wind and weather, suggest alternates while analyzing the most efficient altitudes and also file the plan (in less than five minutes!) All this can occur before the higher levels of human risk planning have even been engaged; It is possible to be off and flying before the “human risk processor” has geared up and asked “is this a safe flight?” The speed and convenience of all this wonderful techno-wizardry are exactly the problem.
To be safe, it is essential to slow down this process and ask honest questions before every flight; Have you, as a pilot, actually engaged all this data on a personal level? Is “all available information” in your head or merely downloaded on the iPad? (did you *read* the NOTAMS?) Do you know how to operate your app fluidly? (see ForeFlight Power User) Finally, have you incorporated your personal mission parameters and are *you* mission qualified (e.g. hard IFR at night) to fly this flight? Once you have processed the data personally it is essential to objectively make a safe “go, no-go” decision. Being honest and accurate (and avoiding the emotional desires) is the difficult part.
In part 135 charter flying, we have extensive Standard Operating Procedures, op-specs and levels of oversight from the Director of Operations on down to curate every significant pilot decision. I believe this is the reason professional flying is significantly safer than recreational flying. Professional pilots are not allowed to “just go flying.” We always have a second (or third) set of eyes on every important decision asking “does this really make sense?” There is a price for that amazing freedom we enjoy when flying for fun. If you want to make *your* flying safer you need to add in an oversight layer to your aviation decisions.
If you are facing a significant “close call/on the edge” decision, I highly recommend running it by an experienced flying buddy or CFI. Think of this like the PADI SCUBA initiative, where you always have a “buddy” check your equipment, monitor your decisions and make sure you are “thinking straight” to assure operational safety. Diving is a similar fun and exciting recreational activity with real physical danger if risks are not carefully analyzed. Lacking this you can employ one of the new FRAT apps to objectively analyze the risk factors. Still in final development is the FAAST Flight Risk Analysis Tool (or “FRAT”). This incorporates your personal level of proficiency and asks the hard questions about your abilities (just like my boss in charter)
The AOPA FRAT is fully functional and available here. This comes in two formats; quick check and detailed evaluation. AOPA has great media on risk management; Click here for a great interactive program on personal risk management using modern technology. A second opinion can help you be safer and may just save your life when emotional “mission mentality” (get ‘er done) is overriding good sense!
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