U.S. Department
of Transportation

Federal Aviation

St. Louis
Flight Standards District Office

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


May 2005




Thought for the month..... We can't always keep trouble from coming,
but we don't have to give it a seat in the cockpit!

Time for a workout?... Historically, the highest percentage of aviation accidents happen during the descent and landing phase of flight. Now that the weather is becoming more flyable, it might be a good idea to schedule some time with an instructor and knock the rust off those landings, particularly, crosswind landings. Sure, you can go out and do some on your own, but the truth is, we rarely test ourselves to the edge of our comfort zone. It's not really a good idea to go out with another pilot either, especially if that person isn't any more current or proficient than you are. We really need to have an instructor along to give us a good workout and sharpen our skills.

There are essentially four levels of skill. The first level is safety. This is the level we have attained by the time we are ready for the check ride. It's our flight instructor and pilot examiner's job to ensure that we can operate safely before we're turned loose on the national airspace system. We're all expected to be at least safe, but this minimum level of skill isn't the level we want to maintain.

The second level is effectiveness. We're at this level when we feel comfortable in the aircraft. Many operations become quite automatic and don't require a lot of conscious control. This is also the level where bad habits begin to sneak in. Our increasing confidence allows us to take some short cuts. "Who needs a checklist? I know it by heart." This is a comfortable place to be and the idea of getting back with a flight instructor to move on to the next level is easily disregarded. This is knowing DIRECT TO on the GPS, and no more. Airmanship paralysis has occurred.

If we can shake ourselves free of level two, the third level is efficiency. At this skill level we acquire advanced techniques that save time and money. This might mean getting an instrument rating and filing IFR regularly. If we fly VFR, such techniques include planning and safely executing a flight to the maximum range of the aircraft, using proper leaning and fuel management, and understanding and taking full advantage of the technology aboard.

The fourth level, precision, happens when we not only fly efficiently, but with finesse. We seek out opportunities to do power off 180º accuracy landings. We become proficient at crosswind and short field landings. We know the aircraft systems cold, and we have probably gotten permission from the management to participate in, or at least watch, an inspection of the aircraft. I overheard an interesting comment some years ago that I think is typical of why many pilots don't want to work towards precision. The person said, "I don't have a lot of money to spend on flying so I don't want to waste it training". The reality is, flying with precision doesn't take the fun out of flying, it enhances it.

Practicing short-field landings at an airport with generous runways is all right for brushing up on the technique, but it isn't realistic. Find some runways that are shorter and narrower, and really experience coming in over the trees and making your intended landing spot. Become reacquainted with procedures at non-towered airports if you normally operate from towered fields. Likewise, if you regularly operate from non-towered rural environment, fly to someplace with an approach control and a tower. Schedule an entire day and tour the State. There's nothing wrong with combining proficiency with fun.

There are demands for precision on both ends of the airspeed indicator. The faster an aircraft flies, the faster the pilot must think. Things happen pretty quickly when the real estate starts moving by at four or five miles a minute or faster. But, speed requires more thinking precision than skill-based performance. Real control precision happens at the other end of the indicator, down around Vs. A pilot who is comfortable operating at the minimum controllable airspeed knows the characteristics of the airplane, and isn't likely to be tricked into a stall/spin scenario.

Proof of precision and proficiency comes at the landing, particularly on a gusty day. This is where the time "wasted" on training pays off. It's like going to the dance and knowing the steps. Fly with confidence. Don't leave a seat in the cockpit for trouble.

Upcoming Events

May 12
Maryland Heights Centre
2344 McKelvey Rd
Maryland Heights, MO
Working CFI Seminar
8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

May 21
EAA Hangar
St. Charles Co.
Smartt Field
EAA Sport Pilot Tour
8:00 a.m.

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