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From the Desk of the Safety Office


Jim Higgins, Standards Officer WVFC

Taxiing Should Be the Safest Part of the Flight

The bad news is that in the past four months we’ve had four major insurance claims totaling over $100,000—all from bad taxiing.  Fortunately, the only casualties were financial.  But when we renew our insurance next year, we will all feel a little pain and suffering. Taxiing challenges are not unique to WVFC, however, our current PAO setup (tight spaces, construction and inadequate markings) means we have it worse than most.

Why are so many good pilots so bad at taxiing?  I think it’s the unfortunate intersection of three seldom considered facts:    

1.  Taxiing is the least interesting part of the flight.  It receives the least attention and is typically too casually executed.

2.  It’s the phase of flight that requires the most precision with the tightest tolerances and least room for error.

3.  To make it all even harder, we do it in vehicles with lousy ground handling and fenders that stick out 20 feet wide, 90º opposed to our direction of travel.

Believe it or not, our fellow members have hit another club’s parked and tied down airplane, a couple of fences, and a fuel truck!  Most taxi problems tend to involve the yellow line, but not in the way you might think.  With the two fence strikes, it’s pretty obvious that the pilots were distracted (getting weather, copying clearance, avionics fiddling) and veered off the yellow line.  But the crazy part is that with the parked airplane and fuel truck incidents, both pilots defended themselves by saying that they were on the yellow line. Unfortunately, the truck and other plane were on the same yellow line—but they were there first!

So what do we do?  As a club, we need to apply the same level of care to the taxi as we do to the flare.   It’s easy to understand how taxiing can be difficult.  We just have to remember that challenge when when we are actually doing it.  To help with that, the safety office will be rolling out a “safe taxi” initiative over the coming weeks.  But please don’t wait for the formal program to begin taxiing without breaking anything, especially the bank.

Thanks for listening to my rant,

Jim Higgins

PS—In the coming months you’ll notice that Ashley, Mike, Don and I will be pursuing new ways to support our membership to be as safe as possible.  One example is that we will be communicating to all members a monthly summary of incidents so we can all learn from each other’s misfortune.  To maintain anonymity all names will be withheld, with one notable exception:  that of the NEXT member to hit something stationary while taxiing.  Please don’t be that member.  You might just get the safe taxi initiative named after you.