As we approach the winter months, it’s always a good idea to brush up on some of the essentials of safe flying. Whether you’re a student pilot or simply need a review, here are a few helpful reminders to ensure you keep yourself, your passengers, and your aircraft safe in the skies.
The importance of a pre-flight checklist cannot be overstated. Go through your checklist carefully and take your time. Avoid completing the checklist by memory or skipping a step to save time.
One of the best ways to protect your investment and ensure you have a safe flight is by keeping up with regular preventative maintenance. Even if you’re not a professional mechanic, the FAA allows pilots to complete certain maintenance projects on their aircraft. Make sure you have the proper maintenance manuals available for your aircraft and accurately record all maintenance work in the aircraft maintenance records. For more information, check out AOPA’s guide to preventative maintenance.
Between focusing on instruments, radio, ATC, and navigation, pilots have enough to worry about without unnecessary distractions during flight. Many GA pilots choose to adopt the “sterile cockpit” regulated by the FAA for airlines. This means that pilots and passengers remain from conversation and using distracting gadgets during critical stages of flight (usually below 10,000 feet). Staying on task and distraction-free can ensure you and your passengers remain safe during flight.
While electronic navigation aids like GPS on your iPad or glass cockpit installed in your aircraft can be incredibly helpful, make sure these navigational aids are tools and not a crutch. You’ll feel safer and more confident if you can fly without relying on GPS alone.
The FAA sets minimum standards for currency, but not proficiency. According to AOPA, “Proficiency in an aircraft includes normal operations as well as knowledge of the emergency procedures for the aircraft that you fly, as well as type of flying.” In other words, maintaining proficiency means going above and beyond the legal requirements of currency. Whether you’re a student pilot or a seasoned aviator, practicing performance maneuvers and training using simulator programs can enhance your skills and may even prevent accidents down the road.
If you have second thoughts about taking to the skies due to questionable weather or if you just have a gut feeling that it’s a bad idea, don’t be afraid to postpone your plans. Trust your intuition and remember there will always be another day to fly.
Hopefully, you’ll never need to put your emergency skills to use, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared. Review the procedures for common flight emergencies every six months to ensure you’re ready for anything. It’s also a good idea to have an emergency “survival” bag stored in your aircraft with items like a first aid kit, blanket, flashlight, food rations, and water.