A PIC’s attitude or mindset must always be alert in order to maintain the safety of the aircraft, passengers, and the general public on the ground. To accomplish sound aeronautical decision-making (ADM), a pilot must be aware of his or her limitations and well-being (physical and psychological health), even before beginning the first preflight routine. While technology is constantly improving equipment and strengthening materials, safe flight comes down to the decisions made by the human pilot prior to and during flight.
The well-being of the pilot is the starting point for the decision-making process that occurs while in control of the aircraft. Just as physical fatigue and illness directly affects a pilot’s judgment, so too will attitude management, stress management, risk management, personality tendencies, and situational awareness. Hence, it is the awareness of human factors and the knowledge of the related corrective action that not only improves the safety of operating a WSC aircraft, but also enhances the joy of flying. [Figure 1-18]
A good starting point is the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (FAA-H-8083-25), which explains the decisionmaking process, resource management, situational awareness, pilot error, stress management, risk management techniques, and hazardous attitude antidotes. After reading and understanding those subjects, it should be understood that the scenarios presented are generally for more complex airplanes, but the thought process and results are the same for all aircraft. The information is not duplicated but the differences and additional information specific to WSC is provided in subsequent sections.
The differences in the more complex airplane requirement scenarios presented in the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge versus WSC aircraft characteristics can easily be compared. Overall, the advantage of an LSA is the simpler design requiring less pilot attention than the complex requirements of more complicated designs that add to the pilot’s workload, such as:
- Constant speed propellers
- Multiple engines
- Retractable landing gears
- Faster airspeeds
The unique characteristics on the WSC aircraft that increase ADM tasks are:
- Open flight deck where maps or other materials cannot be opened, shown, and discussed with passenger.
- Pusher propeller in the back, through which any loose item on the flight deck can be pulled, possibly producing severe damage, depending on the size of the object.
- More physical strength and endurance required to fly in turbulent conditions, which adds an additional risk element.
Avoiding Pilot Errors
Overall, WSC aircraft are flown for fun and not for transportation. Generally, it is determined that the pilot will not fly in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) without the assistance and training of the attitude indicator. Pilots must make the decision to stay out of IMC conditions and turn back immediately if the situation occurs. This is what most pilots should do, but the information provided by the attitude indicator allows pilots to start the “error chain” that can lead to catastrophic consequences. The best immediate decision is always to turn back and not go into IMC conditions in a WSC aircraft.
With an open flight deck, the problem of items getting loose and hitting the propeller requires extra caution. Being in a hurry, not making sure everything is secured, and forgetting to brief the passenger can trigger one event that leads to another. Exercising caution in the open flight deck is an important step for WSC pilots.
If flying a WSC aircraft in turbulence, the pilot must have both hands on the bar to maintain control of the aircraft. Therefore, changing radio frequencies, measuring courses on the map, or operating any of the flight deck controls becomes difficult and secondary to maintaining control of the aircraft. This is different from flying an airplane or a powered parachute, which requires less physical effort to maintain control of the aircraft and at least one hand is available to tend to flight deck duties. It must be noted that the first priority always is maintaining control of the aircraft, and all other duties are secondary. Generally, preflight planning and good pilot judgment would prevent a situation of flying in moderate to extreme turbulence. However, when you do find yourself flying in this situation, fly the aircraft first, and attend to flight deck duties second.
A good instructor immediately begins teaching ADM when the student has the ability to control the WSC aircraft confidently during the most basic maneuvers. The instructor incorporates “scenario-based training” in which the instructor provides pilot, aircraft, environment, and operational risk elements to train the student to utilize ADM in making the best decision for a given set of circumstances. During a proficiency or practical test, the instructor or examiner evaluates the applicant’s ability to use satisfactory ADM practices as the pilot determines risks and coordinates safe procedures.
Resource management is similar to that described in the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (FAA-H-8083- 25) except the passenger cannot help in the same ways as in an airplane. The passenger cannot hold or help read the map unless the pilot has provided a kneeboard or other means for the passenger to assist. [Figure 1-19]
In addition to having the passenger scan the skies for other aircraft, the passenger can maintain control of the aircraft for short periods as the WSC is relatively easy to fly straight. This permits the pilot to perform unanticipated flight deck functions during flight. Overall, preflight planning and passenger briefings are additional tasks of resource management for the WSC aircraft.
Use of Checklists
Checklists have been the foundation of pilot standardization and flight deck safety for many years and the first defense against the error chain that leads to accidents. [Figure 1-20] The checklist is an aid to the fallible human memory and helps to ensure that critical safety items are not overlooked or forgotten. However, checklists are of no value if the pilot is not committed to their use. Without discipline and dedication in using a checklist, the odds favor the possibility of an error.
The importance of consistent use of checklists cannot be overstated in pilot training. A major objective in primary flight training is to establish habitual patterns that will serve pilots well throughout their flying careers. The flight instructor must promote a positive attitude toward the use of checklists, and the student pilot must recognize their importance.
Because of the evolution of WSC aircraft and their simplicity, it could be thought that written checklists are not required. Nothing is further from the truth. Following good written checklists provides significant safety for human factors, which is the greatest cause of accidents in aviation.
Five important written checklists must be used before flight. These specific checklists are emphasized because of their importance in avoiding pilot errors that can occur before or during flight:
- Preflight preparation
- Routine preflight inspection
- Passenger preflight brief
- Engine start/taxi
- Preflight check
Because checklists may not be practical in the open flight deck during flight, and depending on the manufacturer and make/model of the WSC aircraft, checklists used for climb, en route, and landing may be placards in the flight deck that can be read by the pilot in flight or used on kneeboards as appropriate. Checklists must be secured to prevent their flying through the propeller during taxi or flight.
An additional written checklist that can be used on the ground after landing is taxi, engine shutdown, postflight inspection, and securing aircraft.