What changes have you made since experiencing—or narrowly avoiding— an aviation accident?

Christine DeJoy 2020 Q4

Experiencing an accident or near miss can be a wake-up call—time to go back to basics, dust off that procedures manual, or get additional training. To find out what changes our readers have made since experiencing an accident or close call, ROTOR anonymously surveyed them in September. After reading their suggestions, why not cut out the accident and go straight to improving your flight routine?

More Preflight Inspections, Better CRM. Overwhelmingly, performing a preflight inspection or walk-around is the top change our readers have made post-accident or -incident: 77% of our 31 respondents (24 people) say they now always conduct the safety procedure. Certainly, we hope the 23% of respondents who didn’t select this answer didn’t because they were already conducting walk-arounds, an essential aspect of safe flight.

Exercising better crew resource management (61%, or 19 individuals) and always completing a stabilized hover check before departure (also 61%) are the next most common changes. And 32% now always use a flight risk assessment tool (FRAT) since having had an accident or near miss.

Taking Initiative. Most of our respondents say they’ve taken the initiative to learn on their own since their accident/event. More than half say they’ve changed their personal-minimum criteria to a higher standard (58%, or 18 respondents), and a similar amount now make time for personal aviation study (55%, or 17 readers). Nearly a third of respondents (29%, or 9) have requested additional training with an instructor.

Already Doing That. The least-selected changes our readers have adopted in response to an accident or near-accident are to (1) always complete the required maintenance procedure card without any interruptions or distractions (13%, 4 respondents); (2) always complete a quality-assurance check after maintenance procedures that mandate one (26%, 8 people); and (3) adopt, or increase the frequency with which they practice, in-aircraft and/or simulator training (also 26%). Again, we hope the low number of respondents reporting these changes means they had always incorporated these practices into their flight routine.

ROTOR also asked readers to describe an especially memorable change they’ve made as a result of an accident or close call. Here are some of their responses (edited for space).

“An accident changes your level of vigilance. So I always have a place I’m going in the event of a partial power or engine failure plus an alternate … and an alternate … and an alternate—just a heightened sense of awareness I thought I had but really didn’t before the accident.”

“I can recall when I used to fly medevac for the state police. I’d often put pressure on myself to try to complete the missions. After an encounter with IIMC or flying in bad weather too often, I decided I needed to take a more conservative approach. I didn’t make a drastic change but enough to keep me and my crew safe for the 18 years I flew for the police. Now, I fly corporate, I rely on a good FRAT, good training, good CRM, and good decision-making. The great equipment helps as well.”

"Numerous situations over the years during single-pilot operations in which I was surprised by something unexpected have convinced me that having nonrated crew members who aren't actively engaged in the flight safety equation results in significantly increased operational risk. An actively engaged team of nonrated crew members working with a single pilot can close safety gaps."

“After experiencing a dynamic rollover accident because the snow skis were improperly modified, I now (1) always check the mechanic’s work; (2) try to self-check my assumption bias that if someone else has been operating the aircraft in that condition for a period of time, then everything is OK; and (3) use caution when I put something on the MEL that I think won’t be important.”

“While flying on the coast of Alaska in the spring, I encountered a snowstorm in a VFR machine. A series of external pressures had led me to make a go decision, but had I taken more time for preflight planning and not allowed myself to rush, I would have most likely chosen not to go. Now, when the customer’s in a hurry, I tend to intentionally drag my feet. I revert to what I learned in flight school: I use the PAVE model to ensure that I’ve checked every box and I’m making a safe go/no-go decision. This intentional dragging of my feet has really led me to evaluate opportunities for outs. That Alaska flight was the worst flight I’ve ever had, but I think I’m better for it now. Mission creep sneaks up on you when you least expect it. I hope to never let it happen again.”

 

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