U.S. Department
of Transportation

Federal Aviation

St. Louis
Flight Standards District Office

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


June 2005




Thought for the month..... "Beware, dear son of my heart, lest in thy new-found power thou seekest even the gates of Olympus. These wings may bring thy freedom but may also come thy death." Daedalus to Icarus

OPTEMPO... Individuals who do not have a military background might look at that word and conclude that it is a meaningless grouping of unrelated letters, or another incomprehensible government acronym. Actually, it is a contraction for "operational tempo", or the speed at which things are happening. As more events are compressed into a period of time, the likelihood of errors and mistakes increases and they tend to interact in unexpected ways. A famous quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin expresses it very nicely:

For want of a nail, the shoe was lost,
For want of the shoe, the horse was lost,
For want of the horse, the rider was lost,
For want of the rider, the battle was lost,
For want of the battle, the kingdom was lost,
and all for the want of a horseshoe nail!

I'm not implying that we all prepare for battle, but OPTEMPO can be an issue in our everyday lives, and it is often self-inflicted. As the prime flying months arrive in the Northern Hemisphere, aviation activities kick into high gear. Plans are made to fly places and see things. If our flying has been sporadic, consisting of relatively short flights, suddenly putting ourselves into a schedule of several daylong flights could produce some unexpected situations and unfamiliar conditions.

Anytime we plan to cover long distances, it's a certainty that weather is going to be a player. Coming up with plan B is a little more difficult when we are operating away from our home base. In the local area, if the weather comes down, we can turn around and go back. If we're a thousand miles away, that's not an option. We may be reluctant to divert to an unfamiliar airport and feel pressured to press on because we have accommodations and transportation reserved at our destination. Most aircraft accidents happen at the end of the flight, within five or ten miles of the destination. We've gotten this close and we're not going to quit now!

Similar concerns may exist about getting repairs. If something breaks or needs replacement, we might not feel too comfortable about turning the fliver over to Joe's RV and Airplane Repair Shop - Guaranteed Fixed for as Long as You'll Live! "Hmmmm. Maybe I'll just fly it like this until I get home." We may also try to go cheap. "Hey, I'm going to Upstate New York so I've got the charts and AFD for the Northeast. I don't need the East Central and Southeast information." That's just waving a red flag at the aviation gods. It's almost a guarantee that they'll conspire to chase our empennage down to Kentucky and line us up at Lexington when we think we're landing at Frankfurt (can you say - Class C bust?). Weather delays and diversions may cause us to arrive at a strange airport after dark. Of course, legal requirements must be a consideration, but if we haven't done much flying at night, it can be a little unnerving as we navigate our way over unfamiliar terrain.

The real surprise may come in the form of fatigue. Routinely our flights might be conducted in an un-rushed atmosphere with no time constraints. Suddenly, we're committed to an arrival time two fuel stops away. The first time you log 8 hours of flight time in one day, you will have a new appreciation of how stressful flying an aircraft can be, even in good conditions with few problems. If we're unfortunate enough to be back at Lexington filling out a NASA form, the remainder of the flight is going to be really exhausting. Scheduling several consecutive days of this could be setting ourselves up for some serious problems.

Recognizing and allowing for an increase in the tempo of events can be the difference between an enjoyable air tour and an unbearable endurance contest. Departing, armed with options, will make the flight more fun, and take some of the pressure off making in-flight decisions. There are some websites that can help: http://www.aopa.org/flight_planner/intro.html takes us step-by-step through the cross-country planning process to ensure we don't miss anything and http://www.aopa.org/adiz/adiz.html is available for valuable information about the Washington DC air defense identification zone. Circling the Capital to get a few "good shots", may lead to a bit more excitement on the trip than you had planned. AOPA also offers a number of on-line training courses at: http://www.aopa.org/asf/online_courses/. It's a great place to go to brush up on airspace, communication procedures, navigation, and airport markings and signage.

Wherever the urge may take you, build lots of flexibility into the schedule. If you must be back at work on Monday, plan to return on Saturday. Don't tell Uncle Bill and Aunt Helen to meet you at the airport at 5, tell them you'll call when you get there. If you try to fly to your bladder limits, it's a certainty that the airplane ahead of you on final for the only runway will land gear up. Plan well and enjoy the flight, butů"Beware, dear son of my heartů"

Upcoming Events

June 14
Jefferson City Flying Service Hangar
Jefferson City
The Successful Cross-Country
10:00 A.M.

Register at http//faasafety.gov for E-mail notification of safety seminars in the St. Louis District.

Let's Not Meet By Accident
Fred Harms
Operations Safety Program Manager
800-322-8876 ext 4835