The fact that an individual holds a pilot’s license does not guarantee that he is a good pilot. Nor does the fact that he has managed to survive a number of years of flying. We all know pilots who have been living on borrowed time.
The good pilot is well trained, familiar with his aircraft, physically and mentally fit, and of sound judgment. Safe flight depends upon all four of these factors:
1. Training: Adequate training is the most important single element of pilotage. An unskilled pilot exposed to unfamiliar circumstances is a certain candidate for trouble. Skill-building should never stop. Each flight is a new training experience. Most accidents are a direct result of pilots who overstep their skills in a particular flight situation.
2. Aircraft familiarization: Airplanes, like people, take some getting used-to. Each has its own idiosyncrasies and functional differences. Any pilot, regardless of his training and experience, is courting trouble if he fails to check out and familiarize himself with the aircraft he is operating.
3. Physical and mental fitness: The good pilot must remain slightly superior physically to his friends on the ground. His brain, circulatory system, lungs, eyes, muscles, and nerves must be not only in excellent condition, they must coordinate smoothly together. In addition, the pilot must be temperamentally stable and in control of his emotions.
4. Judgment: The intangible factor, without which training, familiarization, and personal fitness are of little avail, is judgment. This is nothing more than plain common sense. A pilot’s judgment ultimately determines the safety of his flight because all of his decisions rest upon it-flight planning, preflight organization, alterations in course, fuel management, ad infinitum.
Use this check list as a guide to safe and pleasurable flying:
Give yourself a personal “preflight” before takeoff. Are you in top physical and mental condition?
If you suspect you have a physical ailment, see your AME or your personal physician.
If you have been under unusual physical or mental strain, don’t fly. Consult your AME or your personal physician.
Don’t fly within 8 hours (minimum) after drinking alcoholic beverages, or with a hangover.
Practice good physical and mental hygiene. Exercise, eat properly, and try to minimize psychological stress.
If you are over 35, realize your limitations.
Be honest with yourself and your AME about the state of your health.
Many pilots have survived years of flying without observing these precautions. But many more have not. Visit your nearest FAA GADO sometime and ask to see their accident statistics. If they seem dry and undramatic, remember that each statistic involves the twisted wreckage of an aircraft and the body of its pilot.
Now-it’s up to you!