Aviation Safety - a talk by Doug Rozendaal, March 28, 2009

Doug Rozendaal is well known in the aviation community especially here in the upper Midwest. He cut his teeth on round engines flying Beech 18’s for 10 years hauling freight through the “challenging” weather that this area is renowned for. Over the years he has established himself as a check airman for the CAF and is very active in devising safety strategies for the operation of these priceless and unforgiving aircraft. He is also an active FAA Designed Pilot Examiner based in Mason City, IA.

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Doug was our guest speaker at our March meeting of the Twin Cities RV Builders. His subject was Aviation Safety in general and especially how it relates to the operation of our RV aircraft. His first topic was examining the “BIG LIE” in aviation. The lie is that flying is safe. We are kidding ourselves if that is what we truly believe. Doug cited several supposedly dangerous occupations from fisherman to coal miners to policeman and on a per capita basis, commercial pilots have the third most dangerous occupation. Flying has several high-risk attributes that we cannot deny: maneuvering flight, weather, fuel management, and lack of supervision just to name a few. It’s easy to get a “fighter pilot” mentality when operating high performance aircraft such as a warbird (and an RV). We must acknowledge that flying is a high-risk game.

Pilots make mistakes for a variety of reasons. First of all we are human. We often operate an aircraft with minimal supervision. We are in a hurry. Or we get sucked up with the “inertia” of the moment (hey, the other guys are going, so I’ll go too!). Thus we have to acknowledge that we make mistakes. How to improve? Doug made a good point: we can start with improving our piloting skills but most often a lack of skills gets us hurt. A lack of prudence gets us killed. We must be honest with ourselves that flying a homebuilt airplane is a high-risk endeavor. And then we need a plan to mitigate that risk.
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How to do that? We need to identify the risk, rate the risk, and rate the reward. If it is not worth it, then STOP. If it is worth it, then we need a mitigating strategy. Don’t make decisions about the level of risk during the heat of the moment.

One technique is to obtain an accountability partner. This is a trusted someone who can evaluate your flying and honestly discuss your judgment and skill with you.

Doug went on to discuss various areas of flying that benefit from a measured approach to risk management. These are items like aerobatics, formation flying, spins and spin recovery, engine outs, instrument proficiency and cross wind operations. Spring is here. How about some “spring training’ to dust off those rusty flying skills that have languished all winter? Consider the fact that the only pilot you really have control over is the one looking back at you in the mirror.

He concluded his discussion with these simple words from the Disney Institute, which certainly pertain to us as pilots: “We judge ourselves based on our intentions. Others judge us based on our actions.” Great words to fly by.