Thursday, 11 December 2014


The FAA GA Joint Steering Committee Safety Enhancement Topic of the Month

 To cope with sneezing and congestion, many people turn to over-the-counter medications and allergy remedies. Though effective, these are not without side effects.

They are great for treating allergies, colds, coughs, and even motion sickness. But they also have a function that can be especially troubling for those of us in aviation - they act as a sedative.

Side effects can include dry mouth, nose, and throat; drowsiness; dizziness; nausea; vomiting; loss of appetite; headache; muscle weakness; nervousness

While it’s unlikely you will experience all of these side effects, even one or two can have a negative effect on your ability to fly safely.

Another problem with such drugs is that some people who take them often subjectively report that they feel “perfectly fine.” However, performance tests show that these same people are just as incapacitated as if they were intoxicated from alcohol. So if you feel the need to take an allergy or cold medication, consider whether you should be flying at all.

It is your responsibility as a pilot to ensure that you meet all applicable medical standards before any flight. No one expects you to be as skilled as an aviation medical examiner in determining your exact medical status, but you know your own body. You are therefore expected to be honest with yourself when it comes to assessing whether you are fit to operate an aircraft. 

Using the personal readiness IM SAFE checklist prior to every flight is a good way to ensure that you are physically and mentally safe to fly: 

    I   Illness (are you feeling any symptoms?) 
    M Medication (have you checked for side effects?) 
    S  Stress (are you up-tight for any reason?) 
    A  Alcohol/Drugs (are you clear of the effects from either?) 
           F  Fatigue (are you well-rested?) 
           E  Eating (are you maintaining your blood-sugar level?)

 Pilot Tip:If you do use a medication with sedating effects, and your symptoms have been resolved, do not fly until at least 5 maximum dosing intervals have passed. For example, if the directions say to take a medication every 4 to 6 hours, wait at least 30 hours (5 x 6 hours) after the last dose before piloting an aircraft.



VFR-into-IMC is potentially a big problem for the following reasons: 

Situation Assessment
Pilots press on into deteriorating weather because they don't realise they're doing so.  A loss of situational awareness may be due to lack of experience in interpreting real-time weather by low-time or 'fair weather' pilots."   

Risk Perception
Much pilot training involves teaching pilots to feel confident in all flight conditions. A by-product of this may be an unrealistic optimism about the chances of avoiding harm. GA pilots sometimes exhibit relatively low risk awareness and generally high optimistic self-appraisals of abilities and judgment.

Decision Framing
Pilots occasionally make decisions based on potential losses (e.g. cost of diverting) and therefore push on into bad weather, particularly if close to their destination. 

Social Pressure
Pilots may feel pressured to reach their destination when they have passengers on board

US study
·         About 20% of all GA accidents are fatal.
·         80% of VFR into IMC accidents are fatal! 
·         High-time Pilots are not immune! One accident happened to a 10,000 hour ATP rated pilot, so don't fall into the trap of believing a VFR into IMC accident can't happen to you! 
·         It’s great that pilots are confident, but a little disturbing that when asked, the vast majority rate their piloting skills as "above average."  That's just not possible under the Law of Averages!
·         Accident data supports the Social Pressure theory, as a higher percentage of VFR into IMC accidents carry passengers compared with all GA accidents.

Avoid becoming a statistic
·         Check the weather for your whole route  
·         Have alternate plans in mind  
·         If you encounter diminished visibilities, follow your alternate plan immediately!  
·         Get advanced training.  Why not get that Instrument rating?
·         Know where the terrain is - add a GPS with terrain capability




Positive Flight Attitude
Professionalism should characterise every action you take as a pilot. Approach every flight as if your life depends on it, because it does.

A proper pre-flight is crucial. It’s more than using a checklist; a good pre-flight should test how well you know your aircraft and its systems.

En-Route Cruise
Avoid complacency, stay ahead of the aircraft, plan for the unplanned, and always maintain situational awareness.

Manoeuvering Flight
Attention to airspeed is critical. Loss of control in manoeuvering flight often results from inattention to airspeed.