Every year Bombardier Aircraft, parent company of Canadair and Learjet, holds a three-day conference in Wichita called the Bombardier Safety Standdown. The “BSS” began 21 years ago as an in-house meeting of Learjet factory demonstration and flight test pilots, and has grown into an international by-invitation event capped at about 500 attendees annually. Although the BSS seminars and breakout groups are aimed at the corporate jet flight department, including pilots, mechanics, flight attendants, safety officers and senior management, there is a great deal that applies to pilots of single-pilot airplanes as well. It is especially so because we do not have a second pilot along to monitor what we’re doing, help during the high workload times, and act as quality control if we need it.
I attended the BSS six years ago and got a great deal out of it. When I was invited back this year I decided it was time for a refresher and to learn the latest that we can apply to single-pilot operations. To provide a feel for what we discussed and what I learned, I’ll provide some quotes from the 2017 Bombardier Safety Standdown:
“FAA enforcement actions have been cut 70 percent in the past five years. The emphasis is on education.” – Ali Bahrami, FAA Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety (the most senior FAA safety official)
“Flying safely and preventing accidents, may be entirely different things. Accidents come from things we don’t think we are doing in the cockpit – intentional and unintentional noncompliance.” – John DeLisi, Director, Office of Safety, NTSB
“You will perform at or just below your everyday standard under stress.” – Dr. Tony Kern, Col USAF (ret.), Convergent Technologies, Inc.
“Drugs and medications are evident in over half of all aviation accidents.” – Allen Parmet, MD, Senior Aviation Medical Examiner
“Every one of us will eventually do something stupid. The goal is risk management, not risk avoidance.” – Mark Briggs, Safety Management Resources, Inc.
“Don’t be ‘conveniently complacent.’” – Amy Grubb, PhD, Federal Bureau
“When you read an NTSB accident report, substitute ‘I’ for ‘the pilot’ or ‘the crew’.” – Dan Boedigheimer, Advanced Aircrew Academy, Inc.
“Safety is the result of continually seeking excellence.” – Greg Wooldridge, Captain USN (ret.), three-time US Navy Blue Angels commander
“As new technologies come online, pilots must evolve.” – Etinne Cote, Bombardier Business Aircraft, Inc.
“With experience we learn the edges of acceptable performance. With experience we tend to do things in a non-standard way.” – Scott Shappell, PhD., Embry Riddle Aeronautical University
“You are flying people who expect a professionally flown
and maintained aircraft. People want to do things on the cheap. Safety is priority one, as long as it is convenient.” – Robert Sumwalt, Chairman, NTSB
“Are you flying safely, or have you just been lucky?” – Al Gorthy, Captain USN (ret.)
Hold Your Own Standdown
We may have missed the time for New Year’s resolutions, but resolve to hold your own Personal Safety Standdown (PSS) in 2018. Find something that you want to learn, or learn better, or re-learn, and put a firm completion date on your schedule to get it done. Make it what you want, and need, to become an even better pilot.
You don’t have to travel, you don’t have to do it with others, it doesn’t have to cost you anything. There are hours upon hours of flying, instructional and maintenance training programs and videos free to you from the AOPA Air Safety Institute at www.aopa.org. The FAA has many more at www.faasafety.gov. Take some time to actually read your autopilot manual, or that flying techniques book you’ve always meant to read. All it takes is to budget a little time. I’m certain you’ll find something interesting that will reinforce what you already know, and make you even smarter about flying your aircraft.
If you need some ideas, consider one of these tracks for your personal standdown:
Weather theory and understanding
Ice formation, forecasts and avoidance strategies
Engine and fuel management
Advanced GPS operation (vertical modes, GPSS, etc.)
Pilot fatigue strategies
High-performance maneuvers (short-field operations, mountain flying, etc.)
Other (you get the idea)
If you want to learn in a group setting, enroll at www.faasafety.gov for notices about free FAA WINGS programs in your area.
You might take your PSS to a higher level yet. Enroll in a recognized, type-specific training course for the airplane you fly. Consider scheduling a simulator-based training program to explore procedures or parts of the flight envelope you can’t safely or accurately replicate in the airplane. Thus, if you encounter a serious problem in flight it’s not the first time you’ve ever seen or practiced the scenario. Take a recognized radar interpretation course, or an engine management seminar, or a couple hours of partial-panel flight instruction. Arrange to spend a couple of hours in an Approach or Center control facility, to better learn how you fit into the National Airspace System and what resources Air Traffic Control makes available to you. There is no limit to what you can do that will improve your knowledge, awareness and capability…if you take the time for a PSS.
Here’s another quote from Blue Angels “Boss” Captain Wooldridge: “You have safety standdowns not because you’ve had a mishap, but so you can avoid one in the future.” Safety isn’t a strategy, it’s the outcome of education and mastery of your airplane, the environment and yourself. If you’re like me there’s a lot left to learn in all three categories. Map out, schedule and commit to your Personal Safety Standdown.