The lack of position awareness takes place more often than we want to admit. In a post 9/11 world, even more than before, it is absolutely vital that pilots know exactly where they are all the time.
The accident numbers and NASA reports seem to cluster around particular areas of operation. This fact should serve as a warning sign. If pilots are repeatedly having problems in predictable situations, then whenever you find yourself headed into a similar situation you should know to get ready.
I heard about this one from a wanna-be pilot in the California area, which if you've been following the news, seems to be just about completely on fire these days, and I don't mean in a good way!
Should the title of last week's accident report be, "When you gotta go, ya gotta go." Or, "Always know where the nearest airport is." A pilot who needed to make a restroom stop crash-landed instead of landing at an airport 2 miles away. The pilot was not thinking straight -- but he was dealing with a big distraction.
Maybe one of the best "flying lessons" I ever got took place 60 feet below ground level! Back in the Bad Old Days of the Cold War I served as an Air Force Minuteman launch control officer. How I came to do that for a living, when I took command of the Air Force's Precision Sitting Team, the "Thunderchairs," and why I actually launched an ICBM in 1987 are all stories for some other forum. But the pressure-cooker environment of potential total nuclear war, 60 feet under the Missouri plains, strangely did much to prepare me for the single-pilot cockpit of a piston airplane. One thing the "missile business" did for me was to teach the concept of minor, major, and critical errors.
Common sense and calculations were missing when two pilots ran out of fuel in flight and experience off-airport landings. Did you see where the pilots went wrong in last week's POD examples?
Bad things can happen when a pilot flies without understanding the complete situation that surrounds them. Last week we learned from three pilots who did not have complete awareness and because of it, each had an accident on takeoff. Let's recap...
If we can spot where a pilot goes wrong on a flight, will it be easier to recognize the same point during our own flights? Last week we heard from a pilot who got in over his head with weather. He learned. Can we?
Flaps are a pretty standard device on airplanes, and one that many pilots take for granted. Whether we have manual flaps actuated by a lever on the floor, or fancy electric driven flaps that move at the touch of a switch, flaps can and do fail in flight.
Not every engine-out need take you by surprise and even if there's nothing you can do about the problem, having some warning that its coming and some knowledge of its nature will always help. Generally speaking, your mission as a safe pilot is not simply to fly the airplane but also to account and compensate for those variables that might otherwise do you in. This means you must acquire knowledge of and / or take the proactive steps that will minimize or remove those threats. The steps listed below, are designed to help you prevent a forced landing due to engine failure, and survive one should it happen anyway...