A personal preflight
This year the CAA Safety Education Team is travelling throughout the country promoting a safety message entitled "Personal Preflight", and Aviation News attended the seminar at Paraparaumu on 6 March.
Greeting the audience of around 20 keen GA aviators, presenter Jim Rankin introduced this year’s safety seminar subject and outlined the format for the presentation. The theme was the personal preflight that should be conducted by each individual aviator before commencing any aircraft preflight.
"Rather than taking the ‘I’ll be right’ approach, it is important to ensure that in fact you will be okay to conduct the flight," Jim said.
To explain the areas that can affect a person’s ability to fly safely, the seminar broke the processes down into compartments:
food and water;
Fatigue is a common factor in aircraft accidents or incidents where the pilot has made poor decisions. Everybody can experience fatigue at any time, but what’s important is the ability to identify this problem and to appropriately deal with it before commencing a flight.
The primary causes of fatigue are lack of sleep and the use of alcohol which can induce fatigue, while external factors such as stress and lack of food and water also contribute to the onset of fatigue. As the level of reduced cognisance of the effects from fatigue is unique to each individual, it is critical that each person manages his or her particular fatigue factors.
Intervention by colleagues and workmates who observe a person affected by fatigue is also important.
It was widely agreed by the audience that alcohol is a recognised problem within the general population of New Zealand, and that aviation is not immune from the affects of alcohol.
The CAA has zero tolerance to any level of alcohol within a pilot conducting aviation duties. A table of the impact of various drinks was looked at, and the impact of even a single standard drink on an individual was a surprise to some. Even flying with a hangover reduces the ability to make correct and appropriate decisions, as a hangover can last for up to 72hr after the last drink.
A similar zero tolerance approach is made with the use of drugs. These are not just limited to recreational drugs but also include the outcomes of reduced capabilities through taking some of the standard over-the-counter medicines as well as prescription drugs taken at a doctor’s direction. Again, intervention by colleagues observing someone under the influence of any form of drug is a key deterrent to what could be an unfortunate outcome.
Stress can manifest itself in many forms and often results in a loss of concentration by a pilot or others engaged in aviation duties. Personal and family problems or work situations can be seen as either a chronic or a day-to-day challenge to individuals. Recognising and mitigating stress before flight is important, as any distraction from the job at hand can lead to poor decision making. Planning and task prioritisation are keys to managing inflight stressful situations.
One of the most common factors contributing to a lack of personal fitness for flight is not ensuring that food and water intake is appropriate before, during and following a flight. The quick high-energy snack before flight may raise the body’s ability to perform in the immediate short term, but the blood sugar levels will quickly deteriorate to a level below normal within an hour, and a small meal of good food an hour before flight is one way of preventing the lack-of-food effects.
Dehydration is also a major consideration when flying. A reasonably sized drink every hour will overcome these effects. Symptoms of dehydration are headaches and dizziness. High intakes of caffeine rich liquids are not recommended as they are both a stimulant and diuretic.
The feel-good factor when a person is at a low stress level, is properly fed and watered, and is not suffering from the effects of drugs or alcohol is the best foundation for safe flying.
"Our body is a complex machine and health risks are many and varied," Jim told the audience. "There are many things you can do to mitigate the risks. Healthy mind = healthy body; look for signs in your workmates and crew. They might just need your help and support.
"Finally, everybody needs to understand risk management and wherever possible eliminate or reduce risks before they have the opportunity to ruin your day."
The seminar finished with the showing of the "Rumba Table", a picture showing the three steps to mutual assistance in the workplace:
Step In. If a colleague is seen to have, or is suspected of having, a problem, step in and enquire about what is concerning them.
Step Out. Listen to what the individual has to say, and where practicable offer assistance.
Step Up. Be a role model and set personal standards and exhibit patterns of behaviour that others will seek to emulate.
- Report and Photograph by Paul Harrison
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