How safe is learning to fly
How safe is learning to fly?
This question always raises its head at some point during the beginning of the learning to fly process, probably by a loved one. The purpose of flying training is to minimise any risk involved in flying a small aircraft to an acceptable level, we could quote statistics at you all day, but these are just numbers. Safety is at the core of everything we do, you could say safety is part of our company DNA.
Aviation is probably one of the world’s most safety conscience and safety regulated industries, but unless a new student asks, we are aware this isn’t always made obvious. So here goes…
We have procedures for safety procedures!
When you start flying with any flying school you will obtain ‘a checklist’ as part of your flight equipment. Checklists are the first line of aircraft safety and are used throughout the aviation industry. Some sections of any check list you learn by heart and some you continue to refer to your checklist. Moving your thumb down the ‘check line’ each line links back to the safe operation of a part or all of an aircraft.
Why do we have Checklists?
It is often said that ‘Every line of a check list is written in blood’ because every line that has been included is there as a direct result of a learning experience, not always where someone has walked away from the result! Checklists have been compiled from decades of experience based on things that can go wrong and how to avoid them.
All aircraft have a pre-flight inspection, both the external and internal areas of the aeroplane are examined with reference to the checklist, this is done before every single flight. The external walk around the aircraft examines every item on the checklist, hinges lights, wheels, tail, wing are just some of the items. Then an internal inspection to make sure that all the equipment inside the aircraft is functioning correctly. Only then do we actually start the aircraft. Then there are other parts of the checklist to ensure the engine is running properly and making sure that all the engine instruments are displaying the correct temperatures pressures and other indicators before the aircraft moves. Once the aircraft has been deemed safe to proceed further checks are made during taxiing the aircraft and prior to take off. As many checks are done on the ground as humanly possible to minimise the risk after take-off.
Once the aircraft is airborne further checks are carried out to monitor the performance of the aircraft climbing away from the ground and further checks are made at the top of the climb and then repeated. Further inflight checks are carried out throughout the flight, some are learned by heart others refer to a checklist
You’ve guest it, checks are also carried out preparing to land and just prior to landing.
Emergency procedures these are learned by heart in the unlikely event that these need to be used they can be automatically recalled and utilised until the emergency is over or no longer required.
Communications with the ground is by radio allowing the free flow of information from the aircraft to the air traffic control units. Information regarding the weather conditions at the airfield, other traffic in the vicinity of the aircraft and avoidance of any hazards are passed to and from the aircraft.
Air traffic units can vary in the service that they can provide but their primary function is to keep everyone safe whilst they are flying.
Distress and divergence (D&D) should a pilot become temporarily unaware of their position, you would call it lost! a quick call on the radio to D & D 121.5Mhz will give the pilot a position fix and allow other aircraft to remain clear of the lost aircraft until they are back on track. The 121.5 service is operational 24/7 365 days a year.
Air to air radio communications, in certain circumstances it is necessary for pilots to talk with other pilots whilst flying, this gives real time information about flying conditions directly and its quite usual at some of the smaller airfields and farm strips where there is no air traffic service
Instructors are licenced and regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to instruct you must have regular currency training. Every three years an instructor must attend an instructor seminar and every 6 years the instructor has a flight test to revalidate their licence.
Aircraft records – Called the ‘Techlog’
Every flight is recorded on the aircraft at log this is a legal document, either the pilot in command (PIC) or instructor or student signs to verify that they have actually carried out the aircraft A check prior to flight.
Any observations or defects are recorded in the tech log if it is deemed to be serious then the aircraft is grounded until the defect is rectified.
Aircraft Maintenance Regime
All engineers are licenced by the Civil Aviation Authority they work in licenced premises and they must be inspected and audited on a regular basis, they follow either the manufacturers maintenance regime, national or international regulations pertaining to the aircraft type. Only certified parts are used in all training aircraft that can be identified back to the point of manufacture and in certain circumstances who fitted the part when and where.
Apart from the “every flight” pilot A check, every 50 hours (or 6 months whichever comes sooner, aircraft are taken offline and visits our maintenance organisation, again at 100 hours flight time it has a more thorough check and so the cycle continues 50, 100, 50 ,100. Annually the aircraft has a deep inspection where the aeroplane is taken apart and very thoroughly inspected, any issues that need to be addressed are completed. Our fleet aircraft have a constant rolling maintenance programme and depending on the number of hours the aircraft flies then it will have more checks in line with the safety standards issued.
We have internal safety briefings about local conditions and local restrictions we also have communication directly with the aviation section of the meteorological office which provides pilots weather briefings, we have smart systems embedded in cockpit which gives notification of weather, Notice to airmen (NOTAMS) about specific conditions in specific areas at specific times. We also have collision avoidance systems now fitted in the aeroplanes so that we can monitor aircraft around us and get a visual representation of where those aircraft are, these systems are updated live.
Every Instructor, Pilot and Student Pilot have Regular Medicals
An aviation medical is a “moment in time” check on your health a bit like an MOT on your car. It is carried out by an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) and, depending on your age and medical history, it can be every five years, every year or on a medically determined basis.
We have certainly saved at least two lives in the last 15 years because of a regular aviation medical. The medical picked up underlying conditions which the pilot was not aware of and were addressed; something that would not have been picked up by a regular doctor.
Please let us have your questions so that we can improve the information we publish.
Paul & Angela 01608 678204