Mitigating Greater G.A. Risk!

Flying for transportation, airline, and corporate, is designed to be “intentionally boring.” This is how we create safety; “No Surprises!” Conversely, recreational flying is geared toward enjoyment and “fun! And GA operates in a largely unregulated environment. In the corporate and airline world, the FAA regulates and carefully controls any risk to the precious cargo (the people in back). In GA we can legally fly IFR in or out of an airport advertising “zero/zero” or “1 mile clear of clouds” in G airspace; we make and manage our own risk parameters.

This article (fleshed out later) is based on SAFE presentations at OSH that encourage a more proactive safety system and attitude for GA flying. The safety challenge in the GA world is a much greater due to our freedom and flexibility! We need to import (and use) the great tools from the professional flying world to make our recreational flying safer, while still enjoying the fun.

In professional flying, 97% of the flying is handled by an excellent autopilot, not the crew. These flights are conducted to a limited number of airports; with large, well-maintained, predictable ) runways. Then there are endless redundancies and resources – weather planning and dispatch – that GA just does not have. A full flight planning and maintenance department and world-class initial and redundant training for the pilots. Simply adding a second pilot as crew makes a flight seven times safer. Not too many AirBus flights arriving at Alton Bay!

The objective of recreational flying is enjoyment or “fun,” and right there the level of risk can go exponential. The crazy flying we see on YouTube has a very thin margin of safety. Every pilot is their own risk manager; one of the greatest challenges. But even the safety-conscious recreational pilot (trying hard) faces a deck stacked against them. Here are some ideas for single-pilot resource (and risk) management:

No Dispatch or Maintenance Department

Most owners and renters assume the full burden of airworthiness. Often the biggest challenge is how much safety you can afford. The “cheapest rental” or “budget annual” are attractive but impose a “safety price” for sure. In most turbine operations, we have a trained team pre and post-flight and resources en route. Buying the best maintenance you can afford certainly lowers the risk. Having a trained mechanic do the oil change (and a brief inspection) adds another inspection interval too. And preflight diligence, both with the machine and the planning, catches many threats, even if you are just heading out locally to get your flying fix.

Superior Initial Training and recurrency

Professional flight crews receive extensive additional (usually type specific) training, both initially and on a continuing basis. To emulate this kind of augmented safety margin, a GA pilot must step up their game and train more frequently and escape their “comfort zone.

Mitigating the THreats of a More Diverse ENvironment

Airlines fly to about 50 major airports; well-maintained with extensive facilities and controls. GA pilots are flying to all sorts of diverse and very challenging fields. Think of seaplanes, to skiing, to back-country operations. Controlling the risk here is one of our primary challenges. A lot of time (as below) it just involves saying “no” and rejecting the lure of adventure. We all enjoy the crazy YouTube adventures, but many of these only succeed on luck and the failed attempts seldom get recorded (or celebrated).

“Saying No” to “Having Too Much FUN”

We all have strayed over that line of “too much fun” (and hopefully the penalty was not too severe). This should be a learning experience to how unforgiving aviation can be when we violate that essential “margin of safety.” We need to fly as mature adults and disregard the cry of that “inner child” for too much challenge and adventure…

This was written at #OSH23 (in a thrash) and needs more content (coming soon) Fly safely out there (and often)!

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Author: David St. George

SAFE Director, Master CFI (12X), FAA DPE, ATP (ME/SE) Currently jet charter captain.

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