HPAC Safety Advisory – July 2022

There’s a new guy on the block

by Jerry Mason, new member of the HPAC Safety Committee

When I was a young, freckle-faced teen in the Royal Air Force (RAF), working on the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom, flight safety had nothing to do with me, or so I thought. After all, I didn’t fly, I stayed on the ground, so how could flight safety be of concern to me? Because of this very attitude, the RAF spent a few hundred dollars creating dramatic movies (it was a while back) that attempted to educate us to think otherwise.  The presentations would particularly highlight how a chain of events usually lead up to an accident or incident and if any part of that chain was removed, the accident or incident would not have occurred. This still holds true today.  We put ourselves under pressure through time constraints or pressure from our friends or fellow pilots and we end up in a similar scenario where a chain of events is forming and heading towards an accident or incident.  More of us have been there than care to admit; I know I have. 

I’d like to address this very issue, the topic itself (flight safety) and how you can contribute to a safer flying environment, yes you!

Whether you were one of the pioneers risking life and limb, determined to get airborne during the early years of our sport, or a student who has just taken their first step through the door of a local flight school, Flight Safety is YOUR business, it truly is everybody’s business!

It’s a great phrase to throw around, but what is flight safety, what is the definition? Flight Safety is the study and practice of managing risk in aviation. The onus is on YOU, not just our organization or Safety Committee, but also you, to do your utmost in reducing and controlling the risks associated with our sport to an acceptable level and there are many ways we can do this.

The technology, computer modelling and materials that are present in our sport today, literally are ‘state of the art’ and occurrences of structural, material failure or uncharacteristic performance issues within the tested flight envelope are virtual unheard of.  So where does this lead us?  Well, statistics alone show that 75% of aviation accidents and incidents are attributed to human factors, in other words, you!

General aviation has continually focused on reducing these statistics with analysis of both accidents and incidents resulting in recommendations concerning procedures, maintenance, training and modifications to aircraft, the goal being to reduce the chance of the same incident or accident happening again.  It makes sense, right?

Although we are not regulated by Transport Canada, it makes sense that we should try and mirror what Transport Canada would expect from us, as if we were regulated by them.  There’s a whole lot more happening outside of the little bubble you are flying in that you cannot ignore. It’s far from just you, your wing and the thermal you are climbing in, such as other air traffic and airspace.  We are sharing the sky with the likes of Air Canada and other general aviation.  So it is in our interest, for the benefit of all pilots, to lessen the chances of an accident reoccurring in our sport.

Indeed, in all aviation that falls under the umbrella of Transport Canada, if you have an accident, it is mandatory to report it, it isn’t optional!  Can you imagine the state of the aviation industry today if accidents or incidents were never reported, ignored and there were no recommendations forthcoming? Turning a blind eye to information or techniques missing from crew training, errors in pilot input at critical points of flight, compromised structural integrity of aircraft not actioned upon across a whole fleet, flying through hostile airspace, the list goes on.  However, the industry does take action from all reported accidents and incidents which has only reflected positively and enhanced flight safety.  Think about how unsafe your next flight on a commercial aircraft might be, if all the above wasn’t reported or actioned. All the accidents that have occurred over the years, just ignored with no lessons learned, would you still fly?   Think about that for a minute. 

You put your trust in the industry to learn from past mistakes to make future flights safer.  I get a warm, fuzzy feeling from that!  I certainly don’t want to be sitting on a Boeing 737 Max wondering during the whole flight if the MCAS is going to trigger a nose dive.  I trust Boeing and the industry to learn from mistakes and take action, why wouldn’t I, isn’t it the obvious thing to do?

We are no different.  In actual fact, we owe it to other pilots in our sport, to contribute positively to their next flight by reporting incidents and accidents, not to apportion blame, but to enhance the safety of our sport with education and awareness, not just ‘brush events under the carpet’ and keep repeating the same accidents and incidents over and over again, which sadly, is what tends to happen.

The Safety Committee has a directive to increase flight safety within our sport.  Without sight of accidents or incidents (and there are many) the Safety Committee cannot fulfill their task, albeit in a limited way with the few reports we receive.  More accidents and incidents go unreported, than are reported and that is a very sad state of affairs in our sport and shows a lack of responsibility and concern. The Committee is working for YOU, to make your flying safer.  Many of these accidents and incidents could have easily been avoided instead of being repeated.  Don’t become an unnecessary statistic, help other pilots fly safer by being responsible and reporting accidents and incidents.  Don’t forget, you don’t even have to be the subject of an accident or incident to file a report. 

So, no matter if you’ve been in this sport since its inception, or if you are on day one of ground handling, if you see an occurrence that you feel could benefit others by knowing about it, file a report, ultimately, you truly might save somebody’s life.

The link to the Accident/Incident report form can be found at https://www.hpac.ca/safety/accident-and-incident-reporting-air/