I once received a copy of a major newspaper published on the day I was born. Inspired by this gift, I thought it would be interesting to see what happened in the aviation world in 1961, the year this magazine started. It did not take an extensive search to find the story of the first manned spaceflight by Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, whose Vostok I spacecraft made a 108-minute single Earth orbit in April of that year. It seems fitting that, in the year of FAA Safety Briefing‘s 50th birthday, further testing of the Scaled Composites Model 339 SpaceShipTwo suborbital spaceplane may bring space tourism-aviation’s next frontier- closer to reality.
It’s Not Just for Heroes. Though some might dismiss these exploits as examples of the daredevil mentality often ascribed to aviation’s early days, nothing could be further from the truth. From Charles Lindbergh to Burt Rutan and beyond, the reality is that aviation’s greatest achievements owe their success to careful planning that we now characterize as risk management. You do not have to be setting aviation records to need risk management skills. On the contrary, the GA accident record attests to the need for every pilot to follow the think-of-everything example of aviation’s high achievers. NTSB statistics attribute approximately 85 percent of aviation accidents in the last two decades to pilot error. The FAA’s work to identify the top 10 GA accident causes and their major contributing factors already suggests that, in many cases, the outcome would have been happier if the pilot had acted with more forethought. In an FAA-sponsored study of 4,000 pilots, half of whom were involved in accidents, researchers discovered that the accident-prone aviators had several characteristics in common, including: Disdain toward rules Personalities categorized as “thrill and adventure seeking” Impulsive approach to information gathering Disregard for or underutilization of outside sources of information You can find more information on this study in the FAA’s Risk Management Handbook (FAA-H-8083-2).
The Prudent Pilot’s Playbook. Over the next year, FAA Safety Briefing will focus more closely on GA accident causes, contributing factors, and, most importantly, what you can do to mitigate and/or prevent accidents. In the meantime, check out the FAA’s Risk Management Handbook. Introducing the basic concepts of risk management, the handbook recognizes that risk management is unique to each individual, since no two people are exactly alike in skills, knowledge, training, and abilities. It offers practical tools that pilots at every level can use to systematically identify, evaluate, and reduce the risk posed by each flight. These include information on checklists; developing personal minimums; and scenarios for risk management, flight planning, and training. The handbook also provides tips for managing workload, developing effective alternatives, and maintaining situational awareness. As you might expect, many of these techniques, e.g., the ability to concentrate, manage workload, monitor, and multitask, overlapped the traits common to the 2,000 accident-free pilots in the study mentioned above. As the first and most important New Year’s resolution for aviation, let us all rise to the challenge of remaining in the accident-free category. (FAA Safety Briefing – JanFeb 2011)