Read More: PiNC Awareness: Don't Rationalize Skipping Steps
May 13, 2018

As a helicopter professional, you’re probably familiar with the concepts of rationalization and procedural intentional noncompliance (PiNC).
For example, let’s say you get to the base in the morning. It’s early, cold, and time to start doing your job. One of your medical crewmembers is whipping up some breakfast, and the off-going crew is hanging around, talking about one of the transports that took place during the night.

That mission was the perfect storm of everyone having to bring their A game, a multi-helicopter scene request with a lot of moving pieces. A great example of teamwork and crew coordination within your aircraft and with the other aircraft on scene. High‑fives all around!

In talking about all the excitement, you allow yourself to get out of your routine. Your preflight inspection is subpar, mainly just checking the fluid levels. But hey, you have inspected this aircraft and flown it in the past two days and everything was fine. You don’t pull a fuel sample — it’s a little windy and you don’t want to risk getting fuel on your flight suit. Besides, you have never had a problem with your airport’s fuel.

These small adjustments from standard operating procedures are examples of PiNC — when a person knowingly disregards an established or required procedure. PiNC does not always lead to an accident or incident, but in many cases when a mishap occurs, PiNC turns up as a causal factor.

PiNC is one of the reasons why human error is a factor in 80 percent of aviation accidents. After all, aircraft are machines. They have no feelings or concerns, and they don’t come in tired on Mondays or stressed from dealing with Mom’s hospitalization. Unlike people, aircraft don’t have bad days or good ones, and they don’t mind performing the same task over and over and over. They either perform properly or they don’t.

People, on the other hand, are prone to all of the above. We get tired, grumpy, stressed, and bored. Here is where our brain will let us down or deceive us. It has the ability to rationalize our behavior, to lure us into PiNC.

For example, you may think, “The weather doesn’t meet my personal minimums or the company minimums, but I am not flying very far, so it will be fine.” Or, “I do not need to sump the fuel tanks today because I am in a hurry, and besides, I’ve never found any water in my fuel tanks.” Or even, “I don’t need a work stand to inspect the top side of the rotor blades because our rotor blades are low time and we have never had any cracked blades.”

There are as many rationalizations as there are pilots, mechanics, and days of the year. Accident reports are filled with rationalizations masked by good intentions.

If any of these rationalizations sound familiar, it is because I have been in these positions and know it happens. It takes honest discipline to be in an industry where you are the daily decision-maker, the one who is counted on to do the right thing. Even when no one is watching. Even when it is inconvenient to do so.
I am talking to both pilots and mechanics now. In many professional settings, you have co-workers or a boss to verify your work, to review your decisions. But when your mechanic says he or she performed the rotor blade inspection in accordance with the maintenance manual or the approved aircraft inspection program and signed off on the work in the aircraft logbook, normally no one else validates that statement. The integrity of a certificated aviation professional is the only link between the ink on a document and the safety of an aircraft.

When the pilot says he or she did a preflight inspection of the helicopter, everyone onboard that aircraft presumes the inspection was performed to the established standard and the aircraft is in an airworthy condition. After all, the pilot said so.

We are justifiably proud of being aviation professionals. The other side of that coin is that we must act like professionals — always.

Whether you call it rationalizing or PiNC, let’s do the right thing and do what is required. It will make us better aviators and mechanics. It will strengthen our position with our co‑workers and passengers, and it will encourage our critics to change their opinions.

Politely challenge your comrades to keep the standard high. If they are doing the right thing, they won’t mind.

Fugere tutum! 

Read More: Vietnam Pilots and Crew Members Come Home
May 13, 2018

Every once in a while, you have a perfect day. Not often, but when you do, it is something to behold.

I was lucky enough to have such a day recently. It was at the dedication of a memorial at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. The monument was placed to recognize the Americans who lost their lives while serving as helicopter pilots and crew members in Vietnam.

Trying to place a memorial in a government facility such as Arlington National Cemetery can be a frustrating, time-consuming, and constantly changing process. This effort was all of these things and then some.

The good news is that the proponents of the monument, the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association, sustained the effort with their passion and commitment to ensure that their brothers-in-arms had a place to come home to. Their leadership and members provided the effort, sweat, and tears — and funds — that was needed to make it happen.

And happen it did, on a sunny afternoon in April 2018, within the sacred grounds of Arlington National Cemetery. It is hard for many to truly appreciate such an event unless they were involved in the events commemorated by the memorial. This is true for the Vietnam experience as well as other past, present, and even future life-changing experiences involving armed conflict.

As I looked around on that afternoon, it was apparent that those in attendance had made the journey from near and far, some needing the assistance of a cane, wheelchair, or loved one. All were filled with emotion, expectations, and personal thoughts.

Some were hoping to meet up with long-lost friends, some were seeking a sense of closure. Others looked forward to finally coming home. Many just wanted their service to be acknowledged. No matter what their individual reason was for coming there, the lifelong bond between the veterans could only be understood among themselves.

As I reflect on my own experience in Vietnam and the conversations over the years that I have had with other veterans, I choose not to focus on the horrors we witnessed, the politics of the situation, nor the lifelong baggage we carry. Instead I want to reflect on the subsequent good that comes from such events.

We cannot help but remember the identification of Vietnam as the “helicopter” war. Many consider that war to be the period when the helicopter came into its own as a military tool. I like to think that the thousands of highly experienced pilots and crew members who returned from Vietnam helped the civilian helicopter industry reach its next level of advancement and maturity by applying the abilities of the helicopter realized in war to serve the greater good of society.

We should never forget the many lives saved by our industry or the multitude of goods and services we deliver that enhance the lives of our neighbors every day. Of equal importance are the many skills and experiences gained by those of us who were trained in the military to fly and maintain these aircraft. Those skills helped us transition back to civilian life, giving us the ability to provide for ourselves and our families while serving the needs of our fellow men and women.

Although the dedication of this memorial was focused on those who flew and crewed helicopters in Vietnam, we never want to forget all veterans and active-duty military, men and women alike, of allied nations who put themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe and able to enjoy the freedoms we have come to expect.

In closing, I would note that one of the most personally gratifying things I have witnessed over these many years is a cultural change that has occurred in our society. It seems that we can now separate the politics of war from the patriotism and sacrifice of those who fight them on our behalf. Rather than the discomfort or outright hostility that many experienced upon their return from Vietnam, veterans now hear a simple acknowledgement of “Thank you for your service.”

To the families, loved ones, and friends of all veterans, thank you for being there for us.

To those veterans who joined me at Arlington National Cemetery, I say to you all: Thank you for your service. Welcome home. Be at peace.

That’s my story and I am sticking to it. Let me know what you think at tailrotor@aol.com.

As always, fly safe — fly neighborly!

Best Regards,

Matt

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