Check Your Attitude

Some people believe in the misconception that aviation accidents are largely caused by inexperience. But as pilots become more comfortable inside the skin of the fuselage that surrounds them, they can become more of a hazard. You may be surprised to learn that an NTSB study of general aviation accidents between 2007 through 2009 concluded that the flight time for accident pilots ranged from zero to 46,208 hours, with a median number of 812 hours — hardly the average of a novice.

With comfort comes complacency, and this complacency can grow into a feeling of invulnerability or a macho attitude — two examples of dangerous ways of thinking that increase the probability of an accident.

Invulnerability is the feeling that nothing bad can happen. It is the reason pilots rush through the preflight, run out of fuel or continue into weather they have no business flying through. A macho attitude makes pilots fly airplanes they are not properly trained in or takeoff when they are incapacitated, whether by alcohol, drugs, sleeplessness or other factors.

You may not be the type of pilot who allows your attitude to degrade to the point of invulnerability or machismo. But as you become more comfortable flying, you should start paying closer attention to your actions.

Just because all of the cotter pins were in each nut the last 650 times you flew doesn’t mean they’re still in place today. Check them all every time. Just because the line guy put the fuel cap on properly last time doesn’t mean he did it this time. Check it. Just because you managed to survive that thunderstorm you inadvertently got into a few months ago doesn’t mean you will again. Respect the weather.

There are reasons we have checklists and procedures. Don’t ignore them. Treat each flight as if one missed item could make it your last flight.

Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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