Springfield Chapter Missouri Pilots Association

May 2002

Aviation Safety Corner

GREETINGS! For this month's topic, I would like to discuss, "Staying Ready for Anything." Exploring what the new Airplane Flying Handbook has to say about handling 'generic' emergency situations. This is Part I of IV.

Let's begin our discussion with "Proficiency." When you talk about proficiency with experienced aviators accustomed to flying several different types of airplanes, a certain thread of "common" sense weaves its way through the conversation. It's something like this: "Most things that fly have wings, a tail, some source of energy to move them along and some way to control them." There's a lot to that, generally speaking, an airplane…is an airplane!

Although every make and model has its own peculiarities, all general aviation flying machines share some basic characteristics. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to think that we can identify some key similarities, common characteristics, procedures and techniques that can be used that would help us fly better and safer, regardless of the machine we were flying.

The emergency procedures section of an Air Force flight manual, for instance, contains a "generic" emergency procedure worth remembering. It goes something like this:

1. Maintain aircraft control.
2. Analyze the situation and take proper action.
3. Land the aircraft as soon as conditions permit.

Now, Let's discuss, "Beyond the Book." One of the first rules of safe flying is to understand your airplane. Before we go any further, let's be clear that this discussion is not meant to imply that we do not need to know the specific procedures for each airplane we fly (i.e., we need to "know" the book). The purpose of this article, is to think about similarities, not differences. Thinking about similarities can provide a logical framework for later action.

For instance, I think we can agree that, regardless of the emergency situation, the first rule is to, fly the airplane." That rule is "generic," which most modern dictionaries define as "relating to or characteristic of a whole group or class." Even the Feds are thinking generic these days. The FAA is including a good deal of generic information in its rewrite of Advisory Circular 61-21, the Flight Training Handbook. (It will be a two-volume series titled "Airplane Flying Handbook."

One of the foremost cautions is that pilots should refer to the specific airplane flight manual (AFM) or pilot operating handbook (POH) for the procedures to use in a specific situation. But manuals and handbooks can not and do not cover everything. Most mention nothing about instrument flight, for instance. Coverage of emergency procedures in AFMs and POHs varies greatly.

The new Airplane Flying Handbook (AFH) lists eight generic emergencies. Checking 12 randomly selected manuals for airplanes ranging from the Boeing 737 to the Piper Tomahawk and Cessna 172, I found a "batting average" of less 50 percent in providing procedures for the eight generic emergencies listed in the AFH.

Now, In Conclusion, remember, "Anything can break anytime, even in the most well-built machines. We have to be prepared for it."

Don't miss next month's, Aviation Safety Corner, when we'll discuss, "Be Prepared." And "Going by the Book." This will be Part II of IV.

Larry G. Harmon
FAA Aviation Safety Counselor