A couple weeks ago I received an email congratulating me on 1000 hours flying with Mission Aviation Fellowship accident free. I received this commendation with mixed feelings. While I’ve worked hard over the last several years to fly safely, I’ve often felt that accomplishing that goal was a crazy mix of skill, caution, luck, Divine intervention, and excellent training. I’m honored to have reached this goal, but I look forward to the next flight and worry.
I’m not worried that I’ll decide not to be safe. I worry that I’ll let my guard down. I worry that I’ll start being just a little bit lazy. I worry that I’ll start to forget the lessons I’ve learned over the last 1000 hours.
So as an exercise of reminding myself, and as a way to share some hard earned lessons as a bush pilot, here is a list guidelines to remember.
- Take more fuel. You’ll never regret leaving behind that one bag to have another 20 minutes of fuel on board.
- Have about 3x more outs than you think you need.
- You can push fuel reserves, daylight, or weather, but never more one.
- Terrain is always closer than you think it is, unless you’re looking at it, then it’s farther away.
- If you can’t see due to low visibility, don’t go.
- If you think you can see in low visibility, you actually can’t, so don’t go.
- If can see, try it.
- Marginal weather in the mountains is really IFR weather.
- You can never check your airplane for damage too much.
- If something isn’t right, but you don’t know what, turn around and go home. Better to figure out what it was safe on the ground than on an accident report.
- Fridays are for mistakes. If it’s Friday you’re probably tired. Quit as soon as you catch yourself screwing up little things.
- Always fly a stable approach. This will be the hardest at your home base.
- Practice your emergency procedures, but do it safely. Touch drills are best.
- Passengers don’t know half of the danger they are in. Educate them if they can handle it, assure them if they can’t.
- Take-off performance isn’t a joke. Know your aircraft performance numbers for your altitude and add lots of margin.
What are some rules of thumb that you use?