U.S. Department
of Transportation

Federal Aviation
Administration

St. Louis
Flight Standards District Office
10801 Pear Tree Lane Suite 200
St. Ann, Missouri 63074

 

September 1998 

 

AVIATION SAFETY NEWSLETTER

www.faa.gov/fsdo/stlfsdo

Thought for the month....The most difficult word in aviation is, "NO!"

TIME TO SPARE? GO BY AIR....It's a phrase that is meant to be humorous, while expressing a very important point. Anytime we choose to fly someplace, we need to plan in some additional time so we're not pressured to fly into conditions which might be beyond our capability. When we put ourselves in a "must go" situation, it becomes very difficult to cancel a flight, even when there are compelling safety reasons to do so. The regulations are of little help when trying to make a decision not to fly because they represent the minimum legal requirements.

Operations Specifications, or OpSpecs for short, are the documents used by companies to place certain limitations on flight crews and equipment. In the military they have various titles, including SOPs, but regardless of the name, they reflect how the organization wants its people to operate. Established operating procedures help protect the crew from the pressures of making no go decisions. Pilots who fly under Part 91 of the FAR's have the freedom to take unreasonable risks if they want to, or they can also establish operating limitations that exceed the minimum requirements.

As an example, anyone who is instrument rated should be able to execute an approach to the lowest appropriate minimums with the absolute minimum of instrumentation. It's the worst case scenario and there is no margin left for error. Knowing we have that capability is reassuring, but having higher personal weather minimums would restore a safety margin by allowing us to see the runway a mile away at 500 feet as opposed to a ½ mile and 200 feet. Of course, this would require saying "no", when the regulations say "yes". Not an easy thing to do.

Sometimes we have to say "no" to the aircraft. For all intents and purposes, the FAR's tell us that everything on the aircraft must be operational for it to be considered airworthy. Minimum equipment lists (MELs) and deferred maintenance procedures covered in the regulations, allow us to fly with certain pieces of equipment inoperable. An operational landing light is not required for a flight conducted under Part 91 of the FAR's, so if we defer the light in-accordance-with the regulations, we could legally continue a flight, even after dark. If we find ourselves faced with a night arrival, are we going to continue, or terminate someplace before nightfall? How about if it's been over 6 months since we did any night landings?

If it's Sunday night and we have to be back at work early Monday morning, there's going to be a lot of pressure to continue and no help from the regulations to stop. It is very unlikely once we're in the air, that we will stop. That's why commercial operators flying under Parts 135 or 121 of the regulations aren't given the option. The takeoff would never have been allowed and the crew is relieved of making the no go decision. By providing ourselves "time to spare", we can, likewise, relieve some of the pressure to continue that might possibly put us in a situation we don't want to be in.

Professional pilots have Opspecs and SOPs to help them make no go decisions. Establishing our own operating procedures can allow us to say "no", the most difficult word in aviation.

Airport Award....In the 1970's, I did some work crop dusting. Ed Shafer and I worked together, and we often operated from the airport he had just established in St. Jacob, Illinois. Well, I don't crop dust any more, but Ed still operates the airport. It's always been a well kept, friendly place, and Ed has always kept it open to the public.

A lot of people have learned to fly there, and many have purchased aircraft and are now based at the Shafer Metro-East Airport. The aviation population has grown, but it's still generally a quiet, well maintained, friendly place. I guess I could be accused of being partial, but the Illinois Department of Transportation has also recognized those qualities, and named the Shafer Metro-East Airport the 1998 Private General Aviation Airport of the Year. In doing so they acknowledged that Ed, "maintained excellence and contributed to the enhancement of aviation education and community development."

Congratulations to Ed, Lois, Mike, and all the folks out at Metro-East for keeping the faith and fighting the battles.

Upcoming Events:

Sep. 12: Highland IL, Highland-Winet Airport - Flying Without Power
Non-tower Airport Operations
Runway Incursions
10:00 AM, Glider rides, Lunch

Sep. 9-13: Adam's Mark Hotel
American Bonanza Society 30
th Annual Convention & Industry Exhibit
Seminars and exhibits, 10
th through 12th, 9AM to 5PM

Oct. 6: G&D Steak House, Rolla, MO.
Runway Incursions. 7:30 PM.

Oct. 20: St. Louis, Lindbergh High School, Cafeteria #3.
Runway Incursions
Storm Avoidance Equipment
7PM to 9PM

LET'S NOT MEET BY ACCIDENT
FRED P. HARMS
Safety Program Manager
1-800-322-8876 x 135
Fred.Harms@faa.dot.gov

"May Day"