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From the Desk of the Chief


Jesse Gamueda, Chief Pilot WVFC


Hello again!  Thank you in advance for clicking on my article, whether you make it to the end is another matter! 

So, in trying to continue in the interest of safety, I thought I would try to convince my readers of the importance of a solid preflight.  The best preflights begin way before you get to the airport.  They begin in the days leading up to your flight, regardless of the type of flying your trying to do.  This be whether you are ferrying one of the club a/c from Palo Alto to San Carlos, or taking a trip from PAO/SQL to Teterboro, New Jersey. 

So what do you need to consider when jumping into any a/c?  First, and this applies to all pilots, not just professional pilots, is 91.103 “All Available Information”.  So normally you can look at the typical things like; Charts, FARs, TFRs, whether your medical is current, etc.  These are the things that everyone looks into.  This article looks beyond the typical. It focuses on the pilot!!!

IMSAFE is an acronym used by the FAA. that stands for 

1.) Illness

2.) Medication

3.) Stress

4.) Alcohol

5.) Fatigue

6.) Emotion

One of the most shocking things I learned at my Aviation Alma Mater was this.  Pilot error is attributed to more than 69% of accidents.   When you take a serious look at yourself and examine whether or not you are fit to fly, one must ask themselves these things at a minimum. 

Illness: this can include anything from a simple head cold to whether or not you feel like flying.  When I was young I remember being told about a 6th sense that most of us have.  Race car drivers would call this “seat feel”. Most people, regardless of currency can climb into an aircraft and know when something just does not feel right?

Medication: a simple rule that I have when you’re on medication is this.  When you’re on any type of drug.  DO NOT FLY.  One of the greatest things I learned in college is that the “Presiding Judge” on any type of case has the ability to interpret the law the way he/she deems fit.  You may be on a drug that is FAA accepted, but maybe not in the context you’re flying with.   Typically speaking these medications are never flat out “approved” and are usually covered by the phrase “case by case basis”.  So when in doubt do not fly. 

Stress: this may be the hardest one to figure out or come to terms with. When reading “accident causal factors” one typically finds that the pilot had “getthereitis” or was being rushed by an employer pushing the flight beyond its limits.  You may have children that have to make it back for a game.  Or a spouse that has that important function to attend.  Usually pilots fly by themselves, so other than our own personal/professional commitments, you really only need examine yourself.  A checklist might include asking yourself, “ Is this flight worth dying for?”  Because bottom line, more often than not, this is the outcome of an aircraft accident? 

Alcohol:  – Need I say more? Really? 

Fatigue: Another silent killer.  Has anyone seen the movie “Flight” with Denzel Washington.  I have heard more stories from airline and corporate pilots where the Captain falls asleep once the aircraft is airborne. (How dare the copilot be allowed to sleep). More and more stories are told about pilots asleep at the yolk. This was one of the causal factors in the Buffalo investigation where the commuter went down.  The lack of sleep doesn’t allow us to be in top shape should an emergency occur.  Many times we take for granted the things that just don’t need to be done because we have an “autopilot”.  General aviation aircraft have become so technically advanced that you really don’t need to do much after takeoff.  The Cirrus, DA-40, DA-42, 182’s, and 172’s all make it way to easy to become complacent in the cockpit…these a/c being autopilot equipped, which results in being “asleep at the wheel”  I’ve witnessed it myself!

Emotion: Wow, did you think you were going to get your head examined while reading this article?  Anything involving A-type individuals means not getting emotional! RIGHT!!!!  Ego’s, far too often rule a pilot’s judgment!  But let’s be objective, if you are feeling any of the following emotions, think twice about flying: agitation, anger, concern, desire, despair, drive, ecstasy, elation, fervor, grief, melancholy, passion, pride, rage, sadness, shame, sorrow, zeal - Think twice about flying.  Remember emotions are one of the great reasons we fly – love, joy, excitement, and thrill!  And all too often dismissing any of those emotions may achieve unintended results.  To thine own self be true!

In closing, when you are issued a certificate or a rating you also get the responsibility of being called – Pilot in Command.  As such you have much greater responsibility - to yourself, your family/friends and community in general. This endeavor that we call flying can be made much safer by becoming airmen.  Being an airman is much more than being just a pilot.  It involves careful introspection every time you’re handed the keys to an aircraft.  Who better to examine whether you have any illness, stress, fatigue or emotion?  With medication and alcohol, there are plenty of investigators to examine this after an accident or incident!

Regardless, I feel that the WVFC culture is one of pleasure and enjoyment for our membership and this introspective look should come very easy!  Once again, I want to thank you for taking the time to read this article!