Pilot safety is a critical part of any flight, and many of these safety requirements deal with flight operations. There are several factors that can affect the safe flying of an aircraft during flight operations, including physiological factors, required checklists, aircraft loading, pilot proficiency, fuel management, airtime, icing, and weather.
Pilot Safety and Physiological Factors
Physiological factors that affect pilot safety include fatigue, stress, emotions, illness, medication, and alcohol. Fatigue is one of the most treacherous hazards to pilot safety as it slows reaction time and causes errors. In fact, fatigue is often not recognized until a serious error occurs. When combined with stress, results can be disastrous. Pilots must be sure to get adequate rest, and remain mentally alert during flight. During times of severe stress or times when emotions are high, such as before a big family event, divorce or death of a family member, a pilot may consider not accepting a flight assignment. Illness can also cause a pilot to become distracted or lose mental focus, and there are some medications that pilots cannot take prior to flight as they can cause drowsiness or lack of focus. Pilots are forbidden from piloting a plane within eight hours of drinking alcohol, per FAA regulations.
For pilots that do not wish to use the operating handbook on every flight, checklists are available that contain portions of the operating handbook for the particular airplane the pilot is flying. These checklists assist with pilot safety by reminding pilots of the minimum items required for the safe operation of that particular airplane. The checklists also help pilots by reminding them of safety items they might overlook or forget. However, only pilots who are familiar with the operating manual should use these abbreviated checklists. Such checklists are arranged by “Item” or “Condition,” with the item to be checked listed along with the desired condition of that item. There are also checklists designed specifically for use during emergency situations. Because emergencies are never planned and a pilot might not have time to refer to the checklist, it is a critical part of pilot safety that pilots memorize emergency procedures on the list that are shown in boldface type or are outlined with a black border. Once the emergency is resolved, the pilot should review the checklist to ensure all items were completed.
Weight and balance are vital to pilot safety, so it is critical that pilots do not become complacent about those factors. Airplane balance is controlled by the position of center-of-gravity, and although overloading or misloading may not result in obvious damage, it could cause a dangerous situation during an emergency. An overloaded or misloaded aircraft could also cause hazardous handling of the plane. Therefore, it is the pilot’s responsibility to insure the aircraft is properly loaded.
Factors such as airspeed control, traffic pattern maneuvers, use of lights, partial panel flying, and other plane maneuvers are also critical to pilot safety. Flying at airspeeds that are different from those published not only put the pilot in jeopardy, but the passengers and the plane itself in danger as well.
Unexpected maneuvers around airports have been known to cause dangerous conditions; that’s why pilot safety requires strict adherence to proper maneuvers, especially around airports. Pilots must cooperate with the Air Traffic Controllers, and if a pilot must make an unusual maneuver, maintaining space is critical. Pilots must also understand the use of lights on the aircraft, both when the lights must be used and when lights must be turned off for safety reasons. All pilots must also understand the emergency procedures for partial instrument panel operation as part of their pilot safety procedures. Understanding descents through clouds, pulling out of a spiral, and the use of landing gear and flaps are also critical to the safe operation of the plane. Understanding common illusions that can occur in flight, as well as the possibility of obstructions when flying low, are other factors in pilot safety.
In addition to these important pilot safety factors, pilots must follow efficient fuel management, the amount of time they spend in the air, icing and weather. For more information on pilot safety, visit us online at www.covingtonaircraft.com. Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter to stay up to date on the latest aviation news.
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