Tag Archives: Pilot Safety

Pilot Safety and Warning Supplements Part 3: Maintenance Operations

Pilot Safety, Aircraft MaintenanceIn addition to understanding pilot safety recommendations that pertain to flight and system operations, a pilot must understand the safety requirements that fall under maintenance operations of the aircraft as well. Like all vehicles, an aircraft requires inspection and maintenance on a regular basis, many of which are outlined in operational manuals and other publications. While maintenance is usually performed by aircraft mechanics and other trained personnel, it is the pilot’s responsibility to confirm that all recommended inspections and maintenance are completed.

Unauthorized Repairs and Modifications 

Repair facilities must follow established repair procedures. Unauthorized modifications could void any warranties associated with the aircraft and jeopardize not only pilot safety, but also the safety of passengers and the airworthiness of the plane itself. Modifications to an aircraft beyond those authorized in the operations or maintenance manual could result in the information provided in those manuals to be inaccurate, resulting in an aircraft that is no longer properly maintained, even when regular maintenance is performed.

Older Planes 

An older plane requires more care and maintenance than newer models. Areas where an older plane may need additional attention include:

  • Wing attach points
  • Fuselage carry out throughout the structure
  • Wing span capstrips, especially lower ones
  • Horizontal and vertical stabilizer attach points and spar structure
  • Exhaust and cabin heater systems
  • Around all doors, windows, windshields and other cutouts of the airplane as these are pressurized structures that could fail
  • Landing gear
  • Engine mounts, beams and cowlings
  • Control surface structure and attach points

These parts of the plane are susceptible to wear, deterioration, fatigue, environmental exposure, and accidental damage, which could jeopardize pilot safety.

Aircraft Corrosion 

Left unchecked, corrosion can cause structural failure, but because the appearance of corrosion varies with metals, it can go undetected. In some types of metal, pitting and etching indicate corrosion, while copper and copper alloys show corrosion as green or red deposits. Corrosion is part of the normal wear and tear of an aircraft, and minor corrosion may not significantly alter the strength of the metal. However, leaving the corrosion unchecked could result in cracks, which is why addressing aircraft corrosion is critical to pilot safety. Treating corrosion depends on the type of metal, the part of the aircraft that becomes corroded and what caused the corrosion. Corrosion can be effectively controlled if action is taken early.

Every aspect of the aircraft must be properly maintained, and confirming that proper maintenance of the plane has been performed is the responsibility of the pilot. In addition to routine maintenance, pilot safety requires that the restraint systems be operating properly, that the exhaust and fuel systems are inspected and maintained, and that landing gear is operating properly. For more information on pilot safety, visit us at www.covingtonaircraft.com. Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter to stay up to date on the latest aviation news.

Pilot Safety and Warning Supplements Part 2: System Operations

Pilot SafetyIn addition to pilot safety factors affecting flight operations, there are additional considerations regarding system operations of an airplane. System operations include restraint systems, fuel system operation and contamination possibilities, the operation of auxiliary fuel tanks, instrument power, alternate air systems, carbon monoxide, and turbochargers. In addition, pilots must understand what to do in emergency situations, such as in-flight fires or the opening of the plane’s doors while in flight.

Pilot Safety and Restraint Systems 

As pilots gain experience, one area of pilot safety where they often become complacent is in the use of seat restraints throughout the flight. Injuries are often reported due to cabin occupants not being properly restrained, especially during turbulence. Not only could this cause injury to pilots, but it could also result in the loss of aircraft control. In addition to posing a threat to the cabin crew, failure of passengers to continue wearing seat restraints may result in injury during rough periods of flight, making it critical that part of every pilot safety process should include proper seat restraint for all passengers and crew throughout the flight. Pilots should be sure that cabin crew seats are on the seat tracks and in locked position. It is also important to check any aft seats in the aircraft to be sure that the seat stop pins are engaged before takeoff and landing.

Aircraft Fuel System

It is the pilot’s responsibility to ensure the aircraft is properly serviced prior to each flight. This includes ensuring that the quantity of fuel is adequate, that proper fuel system checks are complete, and that fuel in the tank has been properly sampled. In addition, it is a critical part of pilot safety to be sure that the fuel cap is secure to avoid fuel syphoning during flight, which could interfere with the operation of the fuel quantity indicator. An understanding of fuel pump operation is another factor that must be included in pilot safety. Understanding the operation of the auxiliary fuel pump, the risks of excessive fuel vapor, and the differences between the fuel pump operations of carbureted engines, TCM fuel injected engines, precision/Bendix fuel injected engines, centerline thrust twins, and multi-engine planes is important.

Auxiliary Fuel Tanks 

Some aircraft incorporate auxiliary fuel tanks to increase the range and endurance of the airplane. If a pilot plans to use the auxiliary fuel tanks, the main tank must be used for at least 60 minutes of flight if the plane has a 40-gallon auxiliary tank, or 90 minutes if the auxiliary tank is a 63-gallon tank. This pilot safety feature allows enough space in the main tanks for fuel vapor and fuel return from the engine. Failure to do so could result in fuel overflowing through the overboard fuel vents, or lead to fuel in the auxiliary tanks being depleted sooner than expected.

Instrument Air Power 

Several areas of instrument air power can affect pilot safety. They include:

  • Vacuum Power Failures – In some cases, an aircraft has a backup vacuum system in the event the primary system malfunctions. When a plane does not have a backup system, the pilot must rely on partial instrument panel operation, which includes monitoring several indicator gauges and lights on the panel. If the pilot suspects that the vacuum system is not operating properly, pilot safety requires that the plane be landed as soon as possible for repair.
  • Electrical Power Failures – Operational handbooks provide emergency procedures should the aircraft lose partial or total loss of power during flight. Early detection of an electrical power failure is critical for the pilot to maintain control of the aircraft.
  • Loss of Pitot/Power Sources – If the pitot tube ram air inlet becomes blocked, the aircraft airspeed will drop to zero, and if the blockage cannot be removed in flight, pitch attitude and power settings must be used by the pilot to maintain reasonable airspeed. Therefore, pilot safety requires that the pitot tube, drain hole or static port be inspected thoroughly pre-flight to avoid such an emergency.

In-Flight Emergencies 

Many pilot safety recommendations are designed to prevent in-flight fires, which must be controlled as quickly as possible. It is critical that a pilot not become so distracted by an in-flight fire that control of the airplane is lost. Another in-flight emergency that can greatly affect pilot safety is the opening of doors in-flight. In the case of an accidental door opening during flight, it is critical the pilot remains calm and undistracted by the shock of a sudden loud noise or increase in noise level, as this can result in loss of control of the aircraft.

All of these pilot safety features are critical to safe flight for passengers, the crew and the aircraft itself. In addition to these important safety checks, the pilot must be familiar with carburetor heat and induction icing, alternate air for fuel injected engine icing, the possibility of carbon monoxide contamination in the aircraft, and the operation of turbochargers if they are present. For more information on pilot safety, visit us at www.covingtonaircraft.com. Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter to stay up to date on the latest aviation news.

Pilot Safety and Warnings Supplements Part 1: Flight Operations

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.

Checklist Requirements 

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.

Aircraft Loading 

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.

Pilot Proficiency

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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Pilot Safety: Safety Pilots and Logging Requirements

pilot safetySometimes it’s difficult for pilots to fully understand the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules dealing with pilot safety. Pilots are often confused about the requirements for logging hours, which also falls under pilot safety. However, there are some simple tips to follow to keep the passengers, crew and aircraft safe.

The Pilot in Command 

According to the FAA, the pilot in command (PIC) has final authority and responsibility for the operation of the flight and pilot safety. In addition, the pilot in command must hold the appropriate category, class and type rating that permits him to conduct the flight. Pilots in command are directly responsible for the operation of the aircraft, and, during an in-flight emergency, may deviate from FAA rules to the extent necessary to meet that emergency. However, a written report of the deviation must be provided to the FAA to confirm proper pilot safety procedures were followed.

Simulated Instrument Flights and Pilot Safety 

The FAA states that “no person may operate a civil aircraft in simulated instrument flight” unless the other control seat is occupied by a safety pilot that possesses at least a private pilot certificate. The safety pilot’s certificate must be for the category and class ratings appropriate for that aircraft. In addition, the safety pilot must have adequate vision forward and to each side of the aircraft. In most cases, the aircraft must be equipped with fully functioning dual controls, although there are exceptions to this pilot safety requirement. These exceptions include a determination by the safety pilot that the flight can be conducted safely and that the person manipulating the controls has the proper private pilot certificate.

Logging Hours 

There are requirements for logging PIC hours during flight. The pilot in command must be the sole manipulator of the controls, be the sole occupant of the aircraft or be acting as pilot in command of an aircraft on which more than one pilot with similar certifications is on board. In a case where two pilots with similar certifications are flying together, one may fly the outbound flight, while the other flies the inbound flight. In such cases, one pilot acts as the safety pilot on one flight, while the roles are reversed on the second. The pilot who is not flying under instruments may log PIC time, but not cross country time. Both pilots may log Total Flight Time and SEL time equal to the PIC time. Important facts to consider are:

When flying under the hood, a pilot must write the name of the safety pilot in their logbook. It is also good practice to do the same when acting as a safety pilot for someone else.

  • The safety pilot is responsible for the safety of the flight, so if something happens, they are held accountable. Some pilots may not be comfortable with sharing pilot safety responsibilities, and may choose not to designate a safety pilot. In this case, they cannot log PIC time.

For more information on pilot safety, visit us at www.covingtonaircraft.com. Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter to stay up to date on the latest aviation news.