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Old 31st Mar 2017, 23:07
  #171 (permalink)  
justanotherflyer
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Cote d'Azur
Posts: 136
Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
The big issue here with currency (recency) and experience is not the ability to fly the helicopter - it is the ability to make decisions, either before getting airborne or once in the air.

Planning to fly that route with the forecast weather is one of those areas where you might assess it as marginal and have a viable plan B (rtb or divert or land) or you might take the risk and push on until you have run out of options.

The first option might be that of an experienced pilot or a wary, less experienced one - the second option is likely to be that of someone who has convinced themselves they are good enough to cope with whatever happens and is often the precursor to many CFIT accidents.

I wonder if they ran their grand plan past anyone who didn't work for them so they might get the 'voice of reason' to tell them the idea was a crap one.

A frustratingly pointless loss of life.
The specifics of this tragic accident will, one hopes, become more fully understood. But one reason, I believe, why many pilots who may well start with a Plan B (C, etc) in mind, but do not implement them when indicated, is that they have kept the alternative plans to themselves and have not communicated them to passengers (who, if non-pilots, are generally entirely innocent of flight safety considerations). Once airborne, the pressure to keep going just that further mile, to look for the gap in the cloud or the lifting in visibility, can then become intense, for fear of disappointing the companions on board. We've all been there.

A method I have used over the years in both private and small commercial operations (FW light twins and turboprops) to offer some degree of self-immunisation from this temptation, is to "pre-disappoint" the passengers during the safety briefing. Or better, when discussing the intended flight some hours or days beforehand.

The spiel goes something like: "Folks, we are planning to fly to X and arrive by Y time, however in aviation there can be a number of reasons why it might become unsafe to continue and I may decide to divert, or even return to base, and we need to consider these before we go. They can include weather deteriorating below safe limits, suspected mechanical problems, if I or a passenger were to become unwell, or other possible contingencies. If any of these were to arise then the plan would be [divert to A, return to B, go by road, have dinner, etc etc]. It's unlikely any of these will occur but if they do, my decision will be final on these alternative plans. No flight is important enough to press on in such circumstances. Is everyone happy with that arrangement?"

I've never once given this briefing where all concerned didn't nod vigorously in agreement. Having committed to it, they have pre-approved and absorbed your contingent decision, should it become necessary, to divert from the original plan. Putting some gentle frighteners on them focuses their minds a bit further. (Call that TEM, if you like).

Should the need then subsequently arise to turn to plan B, etc., they will now be GLAD the pilot is doing so, rather than disappointed. More important she or he is relieved of a large element of internal pressure: that crushing reluctance to share the bad news while peering into an increasingly worrisome scene ahead. It's already been told, and the pilot can concentrate without distraction on getting safely to the alternate.

On a related topic:

"Safety Altitude" often gets discussed in incidents such as this. Over the years I have heard students and private flyers (and even some professionals) describe safety altitude for VFR flights as all or any of:

- A height you must stay above if you accidentally fly into cloud
- A height below which you must fly extra-carefully if the cloud base forces you below it.
- A height the school or company recommends you keep above unless you're a super-special pilot.
- A useful idea for students but something you can exercise discretion over when you get more qualified.

It is, of course, none of these things. It is a height at or above which, if you are forced to descend to it by deteriorating cloud base or visibility, then you MUST divert or return to better conditions. This is another decision which it is essential to "pre-make" in the pilot's mind long before it is forced upon them.

Instructors or pilots discussing this concept with students or fellow-flyers would to well to ensure it is thoroughly understood and internalised as a trigger to action.

Last edited by justanotherflyer; 1st Apr 2017 at 13:27. Reason: Accuracy of terminology
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