Aviation Safety Corner

GREETINGS! For this month's topic, I would like to discuss, "FIRST THINGS FIRST." How To Make Your Flying Safer by Applying A Few Simple Rules. If execution doesn't seem like the simplest part of flying to you, then you're doing something wrong. This is Part IV of IV.

Now let's discuss, "Building An Organized Cockpit." Let's say you're the kind of person who's conscientious about flying and really thinks about it. You've got the "Big Picture," you keep the basics in mind, you've thought through all the recommended procedures and feel comfortable with them. Most importantly, you've thoroughly planned the flight you intend to make.

Have you given any thought to your cockpit layout? Why not spend a few minutes mentally (and later, physically) setting up a good place to work? Good cockpits don't just happen. They are built.

Cluttering up the cockpit, like cluttering up your mind, is a good way to guarantee inefficiency or confusion precisely when simplicity is essential. A simple preventive here is: DONT, an acronym for the following:

Don't clutter up your cockpit. Simplify it. Know what you need and make sure it's all on board before you close the cabin door. Eliminate or stow all the extraneous junk somewhere else. If you really think you must have something but probably won't use it if the flight is routine, put it in your bag and stow the bag somewhere you can reach it. Position the bag somewhere you can both see and reach into it without excessive head or body movement. Know where everything is so that you could put your fingers in it in the dark.

Organize and order your equipment for availability. Everything should have a place. Know where each item is so you can put your hands on it when you need to: maps, approach plates, flashlight, clip-board, pencil, clock/watch, flight computers, sun glasses, visor/cap, flight manual, or handbook, emergency cockpit lighting and checklists.

You might also want to organize your maps. Pre-mark and highlight your course line, prominent features and/or whatever else will be important to you during the flight. Neatly fold each map so it is open to the spot you'll need to see when you reach for it; sequence the charts in the order you'll need them; stow them within easy reach.

Have your checklists in proper order. If you're renting the airplane, don't assume the right checklist is the one in the airplane pocket, or that it's complete. It might just be for the Cessna parked next to the Piper you're renting. Review your checklists, both mental and written, before you have to use them.

Never start the engines, close the door or move out of the chocks until your "cockpit" is ready. Make sure you've got everything on board that you need. Create a personal checklist to ensure you have everything. Ensure that all passengers have been briefed. Make sure you have all your instruments set and checked using the manufacturers checklist and whatever other checklist you've personally prepared for the type of flight and specific trip you intend. Just pause a minute and make sure you are ready. After you've consciously been through this drill a few times, it will become second nature.

Turn on, test and tune everything you think you'll need once you're airborne. Set the comms and Navs, including any approach aid to the departure airport in case of emergency. When setting radios, don't forget "TIMS." It means Tune, Identify, Monitor, and Select.

Tune: Make sure you have the right frequencies set. More than one fatal accident has been caused by making the assumption that the radio was set on the proper frequency. Professionals make sure. Even well executed approaches don't turn out right if the wrong frequencies are punched in.

Identify: Once the frequencies are set, physically identify that the station is transmitting a signal and that it is the correct one. Don't trust the tuning dial.

Monitor: If you are still using the ADF, as an ex-ample, the only way to ensure that the radio is trans-mitting a reliable signal is to continuously listen to the ID for the entire time you're relying on it. ID is your only insurance policy with the ADF. Other radios may have warning flags to signal unreliable transmission.

Select: Modern electronic "plumbing" is extremely complex. You've got to make sure you know what's plugged into what, and where al the switches are. Some airplanes have the capability to use the course deviation indicator to display VOR, ILS, GPS, and /or RNAV information--sometimes all of them--with the simple flick of one switch.

Perhaps most important, after all your planning is finished, have you asked yourself, Is this a good plan or am I setting myself up for big problems? What if this happens…or this…or this? If you are satisfied with your answers, be confident you're making progress in your personal airmanship. If you get the wrong answers or none at all, go back to the drawing board and develop a better plan. The real question is: "Would I rather anticipate problems now or have them in the air with no place to go? Say to yourself, "On my worst day, can I pull this off?" If the answer is "No," regroup, re-plan--or don't go.

Now in conclusion, a little thinking, planning, concepts and procedures work, and organizing for simplicity can go a long way toward making your flying safer, more efficient, cheaper and more enjoyable. Make everything you can envision doing seem familiar because you've been there before in your mind. You've simplified your procedures and concepts, identified the potential pitfalls, and built ways to cope with them. Make it all as simple as you can. Keep only the important things. Remember, First Things First.

Don't miss next month's Aviation Safety Corner, when I'll start a new discussion topic, "WIND AT YOUR BACK." The record shows that pilots should not discount the effects of a tailwind on takeoff and landing performance. This will be Part I of IV.

Larry G. Harmon

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