U.S. Department
of Transportation

Federal Aviation

St. Louis
Flight Standards District Office

10801 Pear Tree Lane
Suite 200
St. Ann, Missouri 63074


February 2004 




Thought for the month..... The quality of a flight is in direct proportion
to the pilot s commitment to excellence.

Doesn' t it make you mad?.... I bet we all do the same thing when we get on an airliner. During the safety briefing when the flight attendants are explaining how we can save ourselves in the unlikely event of an emergency, we look at the people sitting in the emergency exit seating to see if they re paying attention. Many times they aren t, and when I see that, the thought crosses my mind, O.K. pal. If something happens and that exit needs to be opened, you better be doing the right thing or both you AND the exit are going to be removed! How inconsiderate. Our lives might be at stake, and this person is busy reading a newspaper. Some aircarriers now require their attendants to establish eye contact and ask people in the exit rows face to face if they understand their responsibilities. I feel better about that. Probably the only thing more inconsiderate than an exit row passenger who ignores the safety briefing, is a GA pilot who doesn t give his passengers any briefing at all

Several years ago I took some slides of the emergency exit instructions that are available in the passenger area of various GA aircraft. I made sure that each picture clearly showed the written instructions, plus the exit itself and all the levers and paraphernalia that needed to be operated in order to open that exit. I then took the pictures out and showed them to a number of different groups of pilots and asked the question, Based on what you can see and read, can you tell me how to operate this exit? In the majority of cases, unless a pilot was familiar with that particular type of aircraft, they were unable to get it right. Many times the instructions seemed clear; i.e., Pull tab  release handle, but people couldn t figure out which tab was supposed to be pulled. Even aircraft manufactured by the same company don t have the same emergency exit procedures. In one of the Mooney aircraft the emergency exit procedure is five sentences long. What happens if you crash at night or you can t find your glasses?

When people fly with us, we don t want them to be frightened that the flight might not end happily. We re trying to demonstrate the utility and fun of flying our own aircraft. It doesn t create a very positive mental image when we tell them that in the unlikely event of an emergency landing, if the door won t open, they ll have to kick out the window or climb over the seats and go out through the baggage compartment. CFR 91.107 requires that the PIC ensure that each passenger is briefed on how to fasten and unfasten the safety belt and shoulder harness. The pilot must also ensure that passengers are notified to fasten safety belts and shoulder harnesses during landing and takeoff, but that s about it as far as the rules are concerned for light recip-powered GA aircraft. Perhaps there is an assumption that there will be ample time to let our passengers know what to do if something bad happens.

A number of years ago a sightseeing flight in a light twin aircraft ended tragically when one of the engines failed shortly after takeoff, and the pilot was unable to maintain flight on the remaining engine. In an attempt to stretch it back to the airport, he got too slow and stalled. The airplane basically pan caked onto flat terrain. When crash rescue arrived they found a completely intact airplane, no fire, and all passengers securely fastened into their seats, looking as though they were asleep. It should have been a survivable crash. Unfortunately, the roof structure flexed down during the impact and every passenger and crewmember received fatal injuries to the head. The operator required a safety briefing before each flight, which was when notified by the pilot to bend forward placing the head on the knees, and grasping the legs to hold that position. Had anyone done that, they would not have been hit by the ceiling when it flexed down at impact. The pilot never had time to tell them to initiate an action they had already been briefed on.

Some aircraft inspections require the emergency exits be checked for proper operation. This would be a great time to gather-up folks who regularly operate, or fly in that aircraft, and give them the opportunity to see how the exit works, and maybe even open it themselves. Does the window need to be pulled inside the aircraft, or can it be pushed out? Knowing the difference could save lives. Maybe it s worth the cost of having a fire extinguisher recharged to let people have the chance to actually operate it. Most fire departments or crash rescue units can help set-up safe training scenarios.

Emergency evacuation practice doesn t need to be performed in a hurry. People can get hurt and equipment could be damaged. Working with helicopters, we would allow personnel to jettison doors and windows, but we always had several people available to hold on to the parts so they wouldn t fall and we had some mattresses and mats around to prevent anyone from becoming injured. We didn t care how fast they got out, we just wanted them to experience the sensation of how much force it took to break the safety wire, jettison the door, or release the window. We would then speculate on how things might work it the aircraft was lying on its side, or upside down. After figuring out where everything was and which way it moved, we would repeat the drill at night in a dark hangar. Chances are if you really have an emergency exit situation it will be because the normal exits aren t available, and you can t count on it happening during daylight.

Passengers will not be frightened by a thorough safety briefing but, in fact, will be impressed by the pilot s obvious concern for their safety. The pilot s commitment to excellence will directly affect the quality of their flight in a positive way.


Upcoming Events

February 6-7th
IA Renewal Seminar
Collinsville Holiday Inn
Collinsville, IL

February 7th
How to Save Money on Your Annual Inspection
Seminar and product exhibit
Collinsville Holiday Inn
Collinsville, IL
9-11 AM

February 21-22
Greater St. Louis Flight Instructors Flight Instructor Renewal Clinic - FIRC

April 3
Skyline Aeronautics
Spirit of St. Louis
The Successful Cross Country
8:30 A.M. to 1:30 P.M.

April 27
Florissant Valley College
AOPA Air Safety Foundation
Maneuvering Flight
7 to 9 P.M.

Operations Safety Program Manager
1-800-322-8876 extension 4835