What’s Missing in this Picture?

From this year’s safety events it seems that the emphasis at the end of 2015 is on some very important challenges for our industry, subjects that every aviation organization is trying to stay ahead of. The agendas from many events around aviation this year are looking strangely similar—perhaps for good reason—but maybe to the exclusion of some other important issues that could have greater influence in creating safer outcomes for every pilot and flight crew member (and by extension, for their passengers and cargo). A quick run-down on the leading topics of 2015 that have been grabbing headlines all year:

  1. Professionalism (keeping it’s position near the top of the many discussions);
  2. Leadership (much related to professionalism, but seemingly more in focus these days);
  3. “Big Data”– what to do with the exponentially growing FOQA, MFOQA, ASRS, ASAP, and other data that aircraft operators continue to pour into data aggregation systems worldwide;
  4. System Security– from airport and facility security, individual fit-for-duty issues, and the integrity of the global network of air traffic control;
  5. UAS/Drone Operations in and around airspace occupied previously by only aircraft, weather, and birds.

It seems to me that the list could very easily be headed up with Airmanship topics. Even though the success of our industry depends on these broader issues, staying at least at a stable level of skill and proficiency, if not maintaining a steady climb towards higher personal and organizational achievement, is how individual pilots and flying organizations are going to maintain the highest level of safety.

Let me be clear—I don’t suggest for a minute that our profession can’t benefit from understanding the topics trending across aviation in the last month of 2015. But it occurs to me that there is less discussion—year over year—about airmanship, as compared to headline-grabbing topics like Security and UAS/UAV threats. Here’s a short list of topics that pilots and flight departments can focus on that will actually produce results during line operations in 2016:

  1. Confronting the truths about contemporary pilots’ reluctance to discontinue an unstable approach, making this decision process a front-line responsibility for every flight crew;
  2. Practicing non-routine go-arounds during training, as a way of making the decision-making process around unstable approaches less complex by reducing the perceived risk of the maneuver, through training;
  3. Adopt SOPs that stipulate the importance of “hand-flying” the airplane, and affords every pilot the opportunity to fly without autoflight and flight guidance, balancing their airmanship abilities over the full spectrum of operations, from manual flight to fully-coupled flight;
  4. Embrace the facts about flight deck monitoring, and the challenges that contemporary crews face when confronted with one of the most vexing safety issues of the day—how to stay actively engaged in observing critical flight path parameters.

There are certainly more subjects that could be added to this list—if I’ve left off this list a few of your own “hot button” issues of contemporary airmanship, join in the discussion below and maybe we can use this forum to launch one of 2016’s most important safety focus areas.

Think about it.

Until our next post, fly safe, and always, fly first

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