All pilots feel a need to be vigilant regarding safety issues. They carefully inspect their aircraft during pre-flight, run up the engine(s), check the weather. They ask themselves, “Am I physically and mentally ready to fly today?” Simply stated, pilots make many critical, safety-based decisions before the wheels start to roll.
One area that needs close attention is an understanding of the ground environment in which we operate, especially when operating conventional gear, or tail wheel, aircraft. These aircraft have unique challenges when it comes to forward visibility. Challenges that have a direct impact on safe ground operations.
Can I see where I’m going? Have I studied the airport diagram? Have I noted any potential safety hotspots?
These are concerns when operating at every airport, every day. Add an aviation event to the mix and you get people, cars, trucks, emergency vehicles, golf carts, tents, displays and lots of aircraft. You can expect to see aircraft of varying sizes, shapes, and operational needs.
Let’s take a look at a few specific things that may help us plan for safe ground operations in conventional or tail wheel aircraft, especially in the busy air show or fly-in environment.
- After pre-flight inspection, check your surrounding area for obstructions.
- Before engine start, review your taxi route, noting areas of high traffic.
- Ask for help if you are not completely familiar with local ground operations.
- Review the standard aircraft marshaller hand signals.
- Obey the commands of the aircraft marshaller.
- When taxiing, use “S” turns to improve your field of vision.
- Keep your eyes moving, scanning outside the cockpit.
- Taxi slowly. When in doubt, stop.
- Watch for other aircraft entering the taxiway.
As we approach EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, we urge pilots to implement these safety steps to ensure safe, smooth ground operations.