May 7, 2014 - Summer is just around the corner and that means more flying and fun. I’ve read a lot of reports about accidents that have occurred during the summer flying season, and the most frequent cause is some type of pilot error.
With that in mind, here are some tips that can help ensure you have a safe and enjoyable summer of flying.
Proficiency: How much have you flown in the past six months? 10 hours? Maybe 20? The larger question is, are you proficient? It doesn’t make any difference if you are flying VFR or IFR, there is no substitute for proficiency.
Before heading out on that vacation cross-country flight, call the local flight school or an instructor you’ve used before and schedule two or three hours of recurrent training. In addition, go over your travel plans with your instructor. Who knows? Your instructor may have previous experience where you’re heading and may offer some useful suggestions.
Planning: You might be flying into an airport you’ve never been to before, or you may plan to stop at one or two “new-to-you” airports along the way. Take the time to learn as much as possible about these unfamiliar airports.
What about your airplane? Is it ready for your trip? Even if the annual inspection is months away, make sure your airplane is in tip-top shape. There’s a whole list of things you can do to make sure your airplane is ready. You might even ask your mechanic to give your airplane a once over. Again, one phone call, a little planning, and you’ll be less likely to have problems during your trip.
Baggage: When was the last time you loaded your airplane to full gross weight? Or carefully did weight-and-balance calculations for your airplane at gross weight? Now factor in flying into a few airports that you’ve never been to before, perhaps with a runway that is shorter or narrower than you’re used to. These factors can put you in a position you haven’t been in before or at least for some time.
Why not ship some of that stuff to your destination? You can send much of what you want to bring with you, then only need to load a couple of small bags in your airplane. The shipping expense will be offset by the weight savings and help you completely avoid the full gross weight issue.
Pilot fatigue: Don’t let fatigue drag you down! Both your trip out and your trip back should be planned so that you will have plenty of time and options. Trying to make it home, with or without weather issues, is prime time for fatigue and can lead to bad decision-making. Fatigue and “get home-itis” are a bad combination. The prescription is simple…rest, planning, and options. If the weather is a factor, stay one or two more days if you have to.
Airplane insurance: Are there any restrictions or exclusions in your insurance that may prohibit coverage based on where you will be flying? For example, if you’re planning to fly outside the United States, you need the appropriate Certificates of Insurance. There are two ways you can be sure your airplane insurance is intact. One, read your policy. Two, let your insurance agent know what your travel plans are and ask if there may be any insurance coverage issues. You can also ask your agent to provide the Certificates of Insurance as needed for your trip.
One final thought: Make sure you have contact information for your insurance company and agent in case something happens and you need assistance. Ask your agent what you should do if something happens. Face it, no one wants to think about the possibility of something going wrong, but you should plan appropriately for this possibility.
Have fun this summer! I hope you get to take many fun trips with your airplane and that each one goes as planned. Just keep in mind, planning is the best way to have fun and enjoy safe flying!
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