(Acknowledgements: AIR FACTS/Richard Collins)

Here’s Richard’s view of the 3rd. pre-requisite of Smart Piloting …..


Pat your head and rub your tummy…
When I was a kid I heard that one item of screening for potential military pilots in 1938 was to be able to pat your head with one hand and rub your tummy with the other, and then switch without missing a beat.

What does that have to do with flying in 2016? A lot, because operating a private airplane has come to require more and more coordination as time has passed. Now it has become a matter of getting all your stuff together before a flight and keeping it together.

Next time you ride on an airliner, note everything that happens before, during and after the flight. Note how many people it takes. Then, next time you prepare for a trip in your airplane, remember that everything you saw done has to be done for your own flight by one person - you. That is why coordination is such an important piloting skill. Known poshly as CRM (cockpit resource management), it means the effective use of all personnel (including any with local experience or knowledge who may not actually be travelling with you) and material assets available.

Preflight work is pretty standard. Plan the flight, check the weather, check the airplane carefully, load everything properly, run the checklists, get a clearance (if IFR, or required for VFR) and you are ready to fly.

However, there is a special element requiring coordination when considering your route v. weather. In flat country the weather is the prime consideration, but in hilly terrain the interface between the two has to be considered. The hard part is coordinating the arrival with known weather conditions. So don’t just plan the weather, but plan how the weather and the terrain work together.

Also requiring coordination is the relationship between your altitude and the distance to fly to touchdown. This ratio can get pretty ridiculous at many mountain airports, and if you haven’t done your homework the approach can become a muddled high and fast affair. So do a thorough pre-flight survey of the departure and destination airfields to determine the existence of any out-of-the-norm departure and arrival procedures set up by those who know in order to counter problems inherent in the terrain. A lot of airplanes have been lost because the crew was unaware of the terrain or the procedures at one end or the other.

I’ve told of this before but when on the subject of coordination, it is worth repeating. Concorde flew its whole life with the original avionics. There were none of the modern whistles and bells. I watched in wonder many times as a captain coordinated everything about an arrival. From almost 60,000 feet at 1,150 knots, he had to prepare for it even with the airplane still at the gate at JFK. I watched a number of them do that using the best computer of all, the old brain.

Tony BirthComment