U.S. Department
of Transportation

Federal Aviation
Administration

St. Louis
Flight Standards District Office

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

OCTOBER 1998

 

 

AVIATION SAFETY NEWSLETTER

www.faa.gov/fsdo/stlfsdo

THOUGHT FOR THE MONTH...

Learning how to fly takes approximately 45 hours.
Learning when to fly can take a lifetime.
CURRENCY FOR CURRENCY....Phew! Finally completed the Practical Test and received the certificate. Now what? Whether the motivation to learn to fly is an aviation career, or just to enjoy flying on a personal level, maintaining currency will be critical for safe operation. Unfortunately, we often earmark funds for the training, but having completed that task, money required for currency isn't considered.

The amount of flying required to keep a pilot proficient has been widely debated for many years. The military as well as professional aviation organizations have spent a great deal of time researching and investigating the subject to try to balance pilot proficiency/currency and money. Within the last few years the FAA has changed the currency requirements for those of us in the organization who fly, from a flying hour based currency, to event based or task related currency. The amount of flying we do is less important than what we do while we're flying. Ten hours of flying from point A to point B may offer certain proficiency value, but if only three takeoffs and landings were accomplished, perhaps it isn't the wisest use of the funds. Requiring 10 takeoffs and landings of various types, in each category of aircraft in which the pilot is qualified, focuses in on areas where proficiency is really important. If it takes ten hours to do it, so be it, but flight time is not the driving issue.

Safety studies have shown that recent flying is the most important factor in reducing the likelihood of an accident. Total experience is still a player, but the basic rule is: "Don't tell me how many hours you have, what have you done recently?" "Task familiar" is the term used in proficiency tests. It means there is a difference between training and practice. Just because we learned how to do a short field approach and landing in our initial training, doesn't mean we're prepared to handle a 1,400 foot sod strip surrounded by trees two years later. A "learning curve" is the definition given to a line which represents the rate at which we acquire skills, and the rate at which we lose them. In flying, it starts off pretty flat, then moves upward rapidly, sometimes leveling at a plateau, but eventually reaching a peak. That's where our knowledge and proficiency are such that we can meet the standards required to successfully pass the practical test. Typically however, that line plummets immediately after we pass the test because we no longer practice all the maneuvers that were required. The proficiency level we will maintain after that is determined by how much time, money and effort we are willing to devote to it.

FAA accident statistics show that pilots who have not flown in the previous 60 days, are much more likely to be involved in an accident. One professor at Embry-Riddle University stated that a pilot who does not fly at least 125 to 150 hours a year, practicing non-routine tasks, begins to get rusty. Personally, I believe that an experienced pilot can maintain adequate proficiency flying 60 hours a year, if it is used wisely. So what does that mean to pilots who, because of time and/or money constraints, only fly 10 hours a year or less? Should they be hunted down and have "NP" burned on their foreheads? Certainly not, but as Dirty Harry said: "A man's gotta know his limitations."

Pilot, know thyself. Whether we fly 1000 hours a year in an airliner or 6 hours a year chugging around the pattern in a 172, we have to start by being unflinchingly honest about our skills. Regardless of the equipment we fly, the more out of practice we are the more mistakes we tend to make. The 6 hr./year pilot who only flies a 172, might be in a lot better shape than a multiengine instrument rated pilot who flies 150 hours a year, but only 6 hr./year in a twin. If 6 hours is truly all we can afford to dedicate toward flight proficiency, we'd better make it count. If the last logbook entry was more than 30 days ago, it would be an excellent idea to schedule an hour with a CFI, and review some landings.

There are always going to be demands on our time and resources. Keeping the business going and paying the mortgage or rent will always be a priority but maintaining flight proficiency is equal to life insurance if we're going to remain active in aviation. Regardless of how much flight time we get, to minimize risk we must avoid aircraft, airports, weather, and all flight situations for which we are not well practiced.

Upcoming Events:

Oct. 20 7PM to 9PM
Lindbergh High School, Cafeteria #3
4900 South Lindbergh
Sponsored by the St Louis Chapter
Missouri Pilots Association
Free Desert (cookies & coffee)

Runway Incursions
Storm Avoidance Equipment.

Nov. 18 7PM to 9PM
Shafer Metro-East Airport.
Why Good Pilots Make Bad Mistakes
Communications and Resource Management.

Nov. 28 8AM to 12PM
Parks College, St. Louis University.
Helicopter Safety Seminar.

Jan. 23 8AM to 1PM
Boeing Building 33.
Super Safety Seminar.

Feb. 12-13
IA Renewal Seminar,
Parks College at St. Louis University
Programs and exhibits

Feb. 13
Maintenance Seminar and Exhibit for Pilots and Mechanics.
Programs and exhibits of interest to pilots, owners and maintenance technicians.

Feb. 20 - 21
Greater St. Louis Flight Instructors Association Flight Instructor Renewal Clinic
Parks College at St. Louis University.

LET'S NOT MEET BY ACCIDENT
FRED P. HARMS

Safety Program Manager

1-800-322-8876 x 4835

Fred.Harms@faa.gov

"May Day"