Wednesday, 31 August 2016


(Acknowledgements: AIR FACTS/Richard Collins)

Here is the second part of Richard's views on Sharp Piloting ....


“That was a dumb mistake” is a frequent pronouncement, but I am not aware of any smart mistakes, especially in airplanes! It takes a relatively high level of innate intelligence to perform well as a pilot: Being well-educated in things other than flying is not relevant.

The word intelligence derives from the Latin verb “intelligere”, meaning to realise or understand. Doctors are smart. Safe pilots are smart. That doesn’t mean all doctors are safe pilots.

In accidents where low altitude and airspeed were a factor but the mechanical things were doing fine, we tend to think of them as primarily related to a pilot who operated from a runway of marginal length, or who attempted a take-off that wasn’t really possible, or a go-around that started too late. Where intelligence comes in is in being smart enough to identify the impossible before it is too late. In a light airplane this is most often done with what you see and feel.

It is easy to see how pilots who can’t concentrate on the right thing, or who do not understand angle-of-attack, get into trouble. The common threads are high and/or fast approaches, touchdowns well down the runway, and then an attempted go-around that is literally impossible. I can’t think of any situation where it is wise to go around once the wheels are on the ground, or following a prop strike after “porpoising”!

A pilot can avoid all this if, at 500 feet and descending on finals, he is smart enough to look at airspeed, rate of descent, the sight-picture of the runway and everything else, and understand it all to be OK to continue. If not, a go-around from that point has a great chance of succeeding. What you see and feel is what counts.

A high percentage of stall/spin accidents would not happen if pilots followed the simple good practice of never exceeding 30 degrees of bank below a certain altitude. That would vary with the airplane but in most airplanes a good level would be 1,000 to 2,000 feet.

For those lucky enough to have access to one it takes intelligence to operate a modern automated airplane. There is also a requirement to understand the ways automation can bite and how to handle it. Automation protects the airplane from the pilot, but if any part of the system (INCLUDING GPS!) loses elements of information, it is basically telling the pilot “You fly it, I am in over my head.” At that point the pilot’s role reverts from computer operator to stick, rudder and power pilot.

Weather is a frequent factor in accidents. An intelligent pilot understands not only the weather that exists, but what is causing that weather. To avoid weather surprises a pilot must have a good knowledge of meteorology and be a really talented thinker. If it looks mean it is mean, and airborne weather radar does not provide yes/no indications – flying VFR in marginal conditions or IFR in instrument meteorological conditions requires intelligent interpretation.

Look out for Part 3 …….


Tuesday, 30 August 2016


(Acknowledgements: AIR FACTS/Richard Collins)

Below are some of the things which Richard believes define a sharp pilot, based on over 50 years of studying general aviation accidents. (Ed. Note: The list is longer, but for now let’s start with the following)

In his words then ……

A sharp pilot is:
·                 Aware
·                 Intelligent
·                 Coordinated

I’ll start with awareness, which I think it is the most important. What it means in relation to flying is that you are aware of everything that is going on with, in and around the airplane at all times.

The most frequent cause of serious accidents is low-speed loss of control, which results from the pilot not allowing the airplane to fly. A lot of time is spent on stall training, but whilst this teaches a pilot at a safe altitude how to purposely induce a stall and recover, it does nothing to make a pilot aware of what leads to low altitude inadvertent stalls. Most stall/spin accidents occur because when you fly too slowly too low you crash. Airspeed awareness is critical.

And how much time is spent teaching the relationship between back-pressure on the elevator and increased use of opposite aileron to combat overbanking? For most pilots who spin in, the answer is: “not enough.” We spend a lot of time on the theory of stalls, but that doesn’t mean much on base-to-final.

Stall/spin accidents are often preceded by a distraction causing failure to monitor what is going on with the airplane. A pilot who has a mechanical problem with the airplane has to be aware that this frequently results in a low-speed loss of control.

If the problem is total power loss, most of the accidents that follow are not in the forced landing itself but in the stall/spin that comes while the pilot is maneuvering the airplane, at low altitude, to try to make the forced landing work. Regardless of the circumstances, a pilot has to remember that survival is more likely if the airplane is under control when the crash sequence starts.

Automated systems and pilot awareness are also linked. In an airplane with every warning system, does the pilot feel he is aware that all is well if no warning lights/sounds come on? A sharp pilot monitors everything even if warning systems are provided.

I submit that awareness is the number one sign of a sharp pilot because the penalty for being unaware can be absolute.

Part 2 follows shortly ….


Wednesday, 24 August 2016


Acknowledgements: Thanks to my old friend Dirk Brakebusch in Memphis TN who relayed to me the following words of wisdom

In the wonderful world of flying there are rules and there are laws:

·     The rules are made by men who think that they know how to fly your airplane better than you do

·         The laws (of physics) are ordained by nature

You can and sometimes should suspend the rules.

But please remember:

·    The rules are a good place to hide if you don't have a better idea, or the talent to execute it if you do have one

·      If you deviate from a rule, it must be a flawless performance (e.g., if you fly under a bridge, don't hit the bridge)

But you can never suspend the laws.

Your aircraft’s limits are only there in case that aircraft will be required to make a subsequent flight. If no subsequent flights are required, there are no limits.

But please remember:

·         He who demands everything that his aircraft can give him is a pilot

·         He who demands one iota more is a fool

As a pilot only two bad things can happen to you (and one of them will):

·         One day you will walk out to the aircraft, knowing it is your last flight

·         One day you will walk out to the aircraft, not knowing it is your last flight