Aviation Safety Corner

GREETINGS! For this month's topic, I would like to discuss, "Set Up For Success." Here's how to make your flying safer, more efficient and more effective. This is Part I of IV.

One of the primary General Aviation accidents through the years has been the stall/spin. Because of this, pilots are taught to recover from stalls, in part to show examiners that they know how to do that-at least once. Pilots show examiners how to do other prescribed maneuvers, as well, to pass check rides. Unfortunately, there have been some check ride failures along the way.

We all know that the meaningful measures of merit is not the number of check rides a pilot has successfully passed or how many licenses he or she has obtained. We also know that the reason for practicing stalls is not to show how you can recover from them-at least, not to my way of thinking. The purpose of practicing stalls is to develop sufficient feel for the airplane so that you never get anywhere near a stall-or, if you do, to avoid it!

We all know that it isn't difficult to recover from a stall. Yet, if that's true, why do people "bust" check rides with poor performance on a stall entry or recovery? Even more important, why do pilots get themselves into situations that lead to stalls, poorly performed maneuvers and other unsafe situations? There are lots of reasons, of course, but they probably derive mostly from improper, hasty or unsafe setup. The root cause of unsatisfactory check ride performance in many cases is not in demonstrating a lack of competence to do a particular maneuver or operation. Most check ride failures are a result of failure to get set up properly.

Whether it's during day-to-day training, funneling into an instrument approach to minimums or on the "big day" of your FAA practical test, good setup is critical. If it tentative or inadequate, a defective performance is almost predictable. It doesn't have to be that way.

Now, let's discuss, "Plan, and Fly the Plan." There is an old saying, "Plan the flight and fly the plan." On a more specific level, the saying holds for each and every maneuver you may conduct during the flight. Whether you're taking a practical test or a carrier line check, or making a local area practice flight, preparation and planning are important. Most pilots wouldn't even think of taking off on a cross-country flight, VFR or IFR, without having a thorough plan carefully clipped to their kneeboards. Why shouldn't local training or practice be approached the same way?

There's another old saying, "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there." Why not plot a precise path? Failure to plan can cost you both time and money because of the wasted motion involved in milling around between maneuvers. Treat your local flights like cross-countries. Plan them before you fly them. What is your plan? How do you approach your day-to-day flying? How do you go about preparing for, executing and recovering from maneuvers? What's your conscious plan for transitioning from one major phase of flight to another? All of us get rusty once in a while. Why not think about it, take stock and make a pledge to upgrade your flying-regardless of how good you are?

Aside from the overall success or failure of a specific maneuver or task, proper setup helps you get the maximum money's worth out of each flying hour. The more efficient you can be in working the plan you make before your flight, the more training you can accomplish for the money you spend.

Talk to any pilot examiner before a flight. Talk to a member of the U.S. Aerobatic Team prior to a competition. Talk to a military instructor pilot before a training flight, or a U.S. Flag Carrier Captain. Their approach to planning is the same. Each knows exactly what steps will be taken as each phase of the flight is approached. Why won't that approach work equally well for every flight we take in General Aviation? The answer is: It will!

Now, in conclusion, "Remember, good setup enhances both effectiveness and efficiency." Don't miss next month's Aviation Safety Corner, "Set Up for Success." When we'll discuss, "Winning Combination, and He who Hesitates…" In Part II of IV.

Larry G. Harmon

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