Erstwhile pilot, Paul Newman, delivered a famous, and relevant quote in Cool Hand Luke— “what we have here is a failure to communicate.” The achievement of the highest levels of aviation safety greatly depends on visual and oral communication as reinforced by these two articles on general aviation.
The NTSB has analyzed recent GA accidents and has observed that:
“Accidents have occurred in which pilots operating near one another did not maintain adequate visual lookout,” the federal safety agency said.
“The presence of technology has introduced challenges to the see-and-avoid concept. Aviation applications on portable electronic devices such as cell phones, tablets, and handheld GPS units, while useful, can lead to more head-down time.”
As with other technological advances, the results are bimodal:
- good news– the equipment adds to the pilot’s information;
- bad news– reliance on the technology tends to keep the pilot’s eyes and awareness inside the cockpit and not focusing on other aircraft.
While a GA pilot may not be able to talk to others flying nearby, there is an absolute need to keep them in sight and make clear what your flying intentions are. Do everything you can do to communicate where your plane will operate in relation to the proximate aircraft.
The second article directly addresses the need for a GA pilot and his/her mechanic to make clear what may be wrong with the airplane and what repairs are going to be/were performed. Former NTSB Member and an A&P mechanic relates his experiences and relies on a recent Board alert. The headline reinforces his basic message—both professionals
- must clearly articulate their views/observations and
- they must allow adequate time to ask all of the relevant clarifying questions.
The two certificate holders may rely on each other’s technical competence; seeking clarification should not be regarded as questioning the competence of the other. Such a dialogue should be premised on mutual respect and the introduction should mention the NTSB’s Alert on this very subject. Adequate time should be allocated for thorough discussions before and after the work, even though both people are very busy.
Aviation is an industry which uses a lot of technical jargon and acronyms. Not everyone understands the denotation or connotation to mean exactly the same thing. If there is any doubt what a term may mean, the smart practice is to inquire, even if your question may expose ignorance.
All involved, not just pilots and AMTs, should carefully follow the lessons of these two articles. With ignorance, your next line of safety is “dumb luck” and that’s not a reliable safety net.
PS- who is the pilot in this picture?