In many parts of the country, it’s been a tough winter. Airplanes lucky enough to live in a hangar spent most of the snowy season in bearlike hibernation, while ramp-dwelling aircraft shivered under repeated coatings of snow and ice. Such conditions usually leave avid pilots grinding their teeth over being grounded and thus eager to spring back into aviation action as soon as the first daffodil appears.
Sadly, our springtime eagerness to empty the ramps and fill the skies with our airplanes can lead to accidents when pilots and/or their aircraft are not properly prepared after a period of inactivity. Preventing these accidents is one of the FAA’s top priorities. As FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt recently said, our goal is to reduce the general aviation fatal accident rate to an unprecedented low level. To accomplish this reduction, the FAA has developed a focused 5-year transformation plan consisting of four overlapping elements. The first task is to work with the GA community to analyze available data and identify top accident causes. You might remember that we listed the top ten GA fatal accident causes in the NovDec 2010 issue of FAA Safety Briefing.
The remaining elements of the strategy include expanded focus on CFIs and flight training issues, safety promotion, and safety outreach. These elements describe the categories of tools and techniques that the FAA and the GA community will collaboratively develop to mitigate accident causes and contributing factors.
One example of non-regulatory action is a recent FAASTeam safety tip (NOTC2876) on the subject at hand, getting ready for the spring/summer flying season. The tip specifically focuses on runway safety practices, but it also stresses the overall importance of pilot preparation. An easy way to remember some of its suggestions is to remind yourself to BE AWARE:
- Brush up on rules, procedures, flying skills.
- Expect to spend some time removing the winter “rust,” reviewing such areas as:
- Aircraft preparation, especially after winter storage.
- Weather awareness-spring/summer weather includes thunderstorms!
- Aviation environment, including airspace, airports, and ATC procedures.
- Risk factors, with emphasis on elements relevant to where and how you normally fly.
- External pressures that might tempt you to fly or continue to fly when you shouldn’t.
As Administrator Babbitt notes, “Aviation in our country has never been safer. Still, we can – we must – do better.” (FAA Safety Briefing MayJun 2011)