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Hangar Talk October 2017

Safety First Aviation Road Show- By: Tom Chalmers

TAKE NINE respected members of the South African aviation community – Karl Jensen, Jeff Earle, Erik du Rand, Piet Fourie Adriaan Luddolf, Kylee Burnett, Danie Heath, Cobus Toerien and Mike Bowyer – let them form a team and the result is that the aviation industry has a top-class group of speakers covering every conceivable aspect of flying and more importantly, safe flight.

Set them loose on a 24-day country-wide tour of safety lectures and the odds are high that those who take the trouble to go and listen to what they have to say and demonstrate, will come away shaking their heads with the realisation that perhaps they were not such good pilots as they thought they were after all. Their attendance at the Safety First Aviator Road Show will have opened their eyes to the fact that risk comes from not knowing what one is doing.

They will suddenly wake up to the hard-to-take, but nevertheless true, fact that aircraft, particularly general aviation types, come to grief because men are foolish, or vain, or lazy or reckless or all of the above. They will also realise that flying is dangerous, as is driving a car or crossing a road. What Jeff Earle pointed out in his presentation at the meeting I attended at the Durban Wings Club at Virginia Airport, last month, was: “What we have to do is to manage the danger at an acceptable level.”

He referred to the formation of the General Aviation Safety Initiative (GASI) which came about after the “Black September” in 2009 when 35 people lost their lives in general aviation accidents in South Africa. On investigating these accidents, the GASI came to the conclusion that the main causes were apathy, lack of training and selfdiscipline.

It is an unfortunate fact that general aviation is known for its apathy, perhaps more than anything else. Just look at flying clubs’ attitude towards regulation. Ask them to stand up and fight for their rights when they think they are being downtrodden by harsh regulations and fees imposed by the Civil Aviation Authority.

In general they will react with fury, but when the push comes to the shove, few, if any, will actively support their clubs in tackling officialdom, preferring to leave it to “the few” who will. Just look at the support clubs get at annual general meetings when the call for new committee members is made. Zilch, or next to nothing. That’s apathy at its highest.

Unfortunately, this apathy is also very noticeable when it comes to flight safety, as was found by the GASI in its investigations into those accidents.

But perhaps all is not lost, thanks to the Safety First Aviator Road Show and its hard-working team. What I saw at the meeting I attended was the surprising reaction to what the presenters were saying by the 70-or-so pilots – holders of licences ranging from a student pilot, through private and commercial to the Airline Transport Pilot’s Licence – both past and present. By the looks on their faces as the nine presenters spoke was not one of apathy, but one of realisation that, but for the Grace of God and good luck, they had missed an accident at best, or death at worst, for something they had done - or not done – at one or many points during their flying careers Even when the discussions turned to basic weather, one could hear mutters from the audience that perhaps they had only missed crashing by sheer chance, not good luck.

I must admit that, listening to these nine presenters, I realised with a certain amount of horror, that I had escaped death or injury during my 12 years of flying as a commercial, then airline then corporate pilot more from good luck than through the advice given by the likes of these gentlemen which was not available in general aviation during my formative training years nor during my subsequent operational flying. I now bitterly regret those days, especially in the early training period when the only advice I, and others like me, could get was Hangar Talk sessions in the pub after flying.......................................To read the full article please subscribe to our E Magazine Here.

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