Let’s fly like the Professionals

It is no secret that the airlines, corporate and military aviation have a much better safety record than general aviation. And it is also no secret how they do that. They fly by the book, use standard procedures, do gobs of training and have flight dispatchers to provide planning and enroute support.

That’s great you say, but they also spend lots of money on all those things and I can’t afford that. I believe we GA pilots can copy what the pros do for very little additional expense and thereby significantly improve our safety record.

First item, standard procedures and fly by the book. How long has it been since you have read your POH? Are you operating your airplane exactly as recommended by the manufacturer?

What about the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM)? This is a book that contains “best practices” for operating both VFR and IFR in our system. How long has it been since you looked through this book and are you using these best practices? Based upon what I see around my airport, not many pilots are aware of the contents of the AIM. Last time I looked, the AIM only cost about $10, reading it is free. That’s not a big investment to improve our operation.

Now what about all this training the professionals do? Sure that costs a lot of money. But don’t you think the airlines and corporations feel they are getting a good return on that investment in improved safety. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t do it. Since most of us are not flying high performance jets or making category III approaches to snow covered runways, we don’t need all the intensive training the professionals do. But, the point is that an investment in training pays off.

So is one hour with your friendly CFI every 2 years enough? I don’t think so. The pros train on a regular ongoing basis and we should also. The FAA has a good program to help us do that, it is called the Wings program. The WINGS program provides guidance for us to establish an ongoing training program just like the pros have. Yes, it does require a little more expense than the old one hour required flight review, but the cost is still minimal. Recall, the professionals consider training expense a good investment.

What about the dispatcher? We already have them. There is a multitude of online flight planning programs available now with excellent weather briefing links. Then of course there is Flight Service for that personal briefing and flight watch for enroute updates. FSS has all the same stuff an airline dispatch office has; we just need to use them. Enroute, we have radar flight following to watch us most of the time; all we have to do is ask. All of this at no cost to us.

So, let’s get into those books a little more, use our free dispatch service and get started on the WINGS program. I encourage you to give this some thought. I believe if we all made some changes to the way we operate, there is no reason we can’t improve our safety record.