CPL/IFR Seminar 12: Managing Risk

What risks kill the most pilots?

I copied this list from boldmethod.com. In order, they are:

  1. LOC (Loss of Control in Flight)
  2. CFIT (Controlled Flight into Terrain)
  3. Engine Failure
  4. Low Altitude Operations
  5. Unknown
  6. IMC
  7. Fuel Exhaustion/Contamination
  8. Systems Failure
  9. Midair Collisions
  10. Thunderstorms and associated Wind Shear

What Pilot Commandments can help? And which ones help with which risk?

The first of these is widely known and accepted, and deservedly so. The rest are my own formulations, but I didn’t make them up – they are in my words, but were used by many, many pilots before me. I am passing their wisdom along.

  1. Thou shalt Aviate, Navigate, and Communicate – in that order.
  2. Thou shalt do it the same way every time.
  3. Thou shalt fly attitude and let attitude fly the airplane, especially when the going gets rough.
  4. Thou shalt fly by the numbers, especially when the going gets rough. (this is the same as commandment 3 but with the addition of power and memorized values)
  5. Thou shalt use checklists, mnemonics, and flow, and recognize that using only one will not save your butt.
  6. Thou shalt know and obey the regulations, but understand that they alone will not save your butt. Occasionally you may even have to break a rule to save your butt.
  7. Thou shalt keep thy head up in VMC, and file IFR in IMC.
  8. The more complex the aircraft, the more shalt thou study, learn, think, and plan before leaving for the airport.
  9. Know and respect thine own limitations, not just those of your airplane.
  10. Know and RESPECT weather phenomena, especially thunderstorms and icing. And in seeming contradiction to commandment 2, thou shalt not expect today will be the same as the last time.

What is Safe Airspace?

I first thought of defining safe airspace in connection with IFR flight, however the concept is useful for all flying.

The starting point is literally safe airspace, that is, above terrain and MEA, and outside Restricted Areas, etc. But the idea can be expanded to include just about anything that might pose a risk. Just by adding weather and fuel remaining to the mix you define a four-dimensional space where risk changes with your aircraft’s position over time.

The goal is to avoid getting trapped.

An extreme example might be deciding whether to continue through a mountain pass at night, where the MEA was close to your service ceiling and thunderstorms were forecast, and the weather at your destination was iffy. Sure, you might slip through. But if things worsened on the other side of the pass, you could be in trouble because the pass could already be, ah, impassable. Visualize this as flying through a straw into the unknown. Many accidents have had this pattern.

Managing Risk

  1. What is the Swiss Cheese model?
  2. How does the safe airspace model differ from the Swiss Cheese model? (This is the Wikipedia link)
  3. Can you reduce the risks of Low Altitude Operations? If so, how?
  4. Can you reduce the risks associated with systems failures? How?
  5. Can you reduce the risk that you will have an accident of unknown cause? (Clue – look at the photo on boldmethod.com. What was the cause, do you think?)
  6. How do you reduce the risks posed by thunderstorms? Is that even possible?
  7. Have we already talked about engine failure? What was the single most important thing to do? Apply a commandment . . .
  8. Last week I gave a brief story of engine failures on takeoff (fuel starvation) in Bonanzas with half-full tanks. If you were there or watched the Zoom recording, what are the lessons/ prevention strategies?