U.S. Department
of Transportation

Federal Aviation

St. Louis
Flight Standards District Office

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


October 2005




Thought for the month..... The trouble with doing something right the first time
is that nobody appreciates how difficult it was.

It's Better to be Lucky than Good... Have you ever pointed out particular airman at the airport and commented about how lucky they are? If being safe and always doing the correct thing could guarantee an accident free flight, we'd all do it. The frustrating thing about aviation safety is that entirely safe flights have been accomplished under the most unsafe conditions, and major disasters have resulted from relatively small errors.

Lucky Lindy wasn't called "Lucky" for nothing. I was looking at a replica of his Spirit of St. Louis the other day and it struck me how incredibly unsafe that aircraft was. Over 450 gallons of gas in a fabric aircraft with no forward vision and no brakes? Yeah, right! That's just the kind of airplane I'd like to try to takeoff a wet slushy runway and head out across the ocean in. I've talked with pilots who flew the replica and they all said it was "pretty touchy", i.e., not very stable. That was a good thing because constant attention to flying helped keep him awake during his 33-hour journey, which would have been exhausting by itself, but he didn't get any sleep for 24 hours before the flight. In combat I once had to fly missions for 48 hours. After 36 hours we were issued amphetamines to stay awake and they barely got us through the next 8 hours. I can't imagine being awake for almost 60 hours with nothing but a canteen of water and a cheese sandwich!

Lindbergh's epic flight represents a years-worth of safety seminars on things like: weight and balance, flying while fatigued, operations off unsafe runways, flying into icing conditions in aircraft not equipped for icing, night landings at unfamiliar airports, etc., etc. Any one of these conditions alone have led to aircraft accidents, he had them all and was successful. Contrast his flight with the shuttle Columbia flight where constant oversight and risk management was used at every step of the operation. A piece of foam comes off the external fuel tank and hits the leading edge of the wing causing total and tragic destruction of the aircraft. Luck may be a bigger part of flying than we think.

Luck really means an occurrence that we don't have any control over. It's like a roll of the dice. We can make our point seven rolls in a row, or we can throw craps on the first pass. If we didn't think we'd get caught, we might try playing with loaded dice. That would put the winning numbers in our favor. That's what risk management is all about. We're trying to rig the game in our favor. It doesn't mean we won't hit a loser once in awhile, but if we haven't bet too heavily on the outcome, we may not lose much if it happens. Spreading out the risk is like betting a little at several gambling tables at once instead of betting the house and car on one roll. We might be a big winner, or we might be out in the cold.

Mr. Lindbergh is considered a hero for accomplishing the first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean. Certainly his courage and endurance are unquestionable, and the reality is, he rigged the game in his favor as much as he could. He knew his airplane inside and out. He supervised the design and construction. He test flew it and established the performance of the Spirit so he knew with some certainty that it would lift off the muddy runway of Roosevelt Field on Long Island. He knew absolutely what kind of performance and fuel burn he'd get from the Wright Whirlwind J5C engine that pulled him through the dark sky so he knew he had enough gas for the trip.

He didn't know what kind of conditions he might encounter, but he did have a lot of experience dealing with inclement weather so he felt certain he could deal with whatever was out there. He knew that making decisions in the cockpit would be difficult given the length of the flight so he developed procedures that he committed to habit so that he wouldn't have to think much. He controlled as many things as he could control and determined that his experience would allow him to make the correct in-flight decisions to survive the flight.

For those of us with less experience than Charles Lindbergh, we can still rig the game in our favor by learning and using the accumulated experience of others. This is where participating in an organized safety program can be a benefit. On January 7 & 8, the first Midwest Aviation Conference and Trade Show (MACTS) will be held at the Busch Student Center of Saint Louis University. Scheduled speakers include Scott Crossfield, X-15 test pilot, Bud Anderson, WWII triple ace, representatives from Cirrus Aircraft and AOPA, as well as State and local subject matter experts. Vendors and displays from organizations that include Wicks Aircraft Supply, All Star Warbirds, Cirrus Aircraft, EAA/NAFI, Skyline Pilot Shop, ATC DUAT, Missouri Pilots Association, along with others, will be available at MACTS.

CFIs who register and still hold a current certificate, can renew that certificate by attending presentations on both days (16 hours worth). CFIs with renewals due through April, 2006, can renew at MACTS and retain there renewal month. Information about MACTS can be found at www.MACTS.org. Flight instructors interested in renewing at the seminar can find information for registration at www.gslfia.com, or calling (314) 286-9905.

Please plan on joining us at Busch Student Center at Saint Louis University on January 7 & 8. It might just help rig the game in your favor.

Upcoming Events

Oct 1
EAA Room, Hangar 1
St. Louis Downtown Airport
Speak No Evil
12:30 p.m.

Oct 22
Mid Coast Training Center
18 Mark Allen Dr
St. Louis Downtown Airport
Helicopter Safety Seminar
9:00 a.m

Nov 8
Lindbergh High School
4900 S Lindbergh (Hwy 61), between I-270 & I-55
Time: 7-9PM.

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