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The Community of Flying

Steve Blonstein, General Manager WVFC

Safety is #1

Many organizations talk about safety as a priority.  I believe that WVFC not only talks about it, but actually lives it.  We have just completed a full year of insurance and not made a single insurance claim!   That’s quite an achievement.  To put things in perspective, the club flew over 15,000 flight hours during the year.  With an average of about 2-3 landings per hour, that equates to approximately 30 to 40,000 takes-off and landings.  Pretty incredible if you think we’re talking about almost 50 planes, 40 instructors, and 600 regular flying members.

I would like to take this opportunity to highlight some of the things we have done as a club to promote and live a “positive safety culture”.

The phase check process.   Often viewed as somewhat of a “burden” because it involves extra flights with different instructors, the club has shown a dramatic improvement in safety since the program was first initiated.  It provides second opinions, keeps primary instructors “honest” in terms of preparing clients for the phase check. It provides feedback to the Safety Office on the quality of the primary instruction, and sets the bar high enough that someone who doesn’t feel the need or see the value of the phase check process drops out before finishing (or maybe before even starting).

Extended Rental Agreements.  It’s apparent that not all members are aware of this, so let’s take the time to refresh.  If you want to take a club plane for an overnight (or more) AND out of state, the club requires that you fill out an Extended Rental Agreement (ERA).  The form asks where and when you are going, in what plane, and has a CFI been involved the planning.  The Safety Office (and maintenance) will review the request and get back with an OK or perhaps some suggestions to modify the trip to improve the likelihood of a safe outcome.  Case in point.  Recently a member, who knew about the ERA, submitted one for a trip from Palo Alto to Las Vegas (as in the main airport KLAS) in a Cessna Skycatcher.  While doable, the club considered that a less than ideal combo of an LSA going over the mountains and attempting to join the fray with all the heavy equipment arriving into Las Vegas.  It also gets really windy over there and the Skycatcher doesn’t do that well in strong winds.   The Safety Office reached out to the member and the member agreed with the assessment, no hard feelings, and one less “marginal” flight avoided.

Maintenance.  There are a LOT of gray areas in maintenance.  Many judgment calls have to be made everyday as to the airworthiness and usability of thousands of different parts on dozens of different makes and models.  We always err on the side of safety, but we have to do that in a practical way.  If a part or system is deemed not airworthy then the plane is grounded until it is fixed.  Case in point, our squawk and observation process.  If a member writes a squawk the plane is grounded regardless.  Even if the squawk is “silly” (e.g. trash found on rear seats), the plane is grounded. The ONLY department that can un-ground the plane is maintenance.  No amount of whining from CFIs, members, staff, etc. can un-ground the plane.  We have stuck firm to this policy to avoid the inevitable slippery slope of people other than maintenance un-grounding planes.  One can only imagine where that could lead.

Safety Office.  Consisting of three people, Mike May, Don Styles, and Ashley Porath, this team provides the backbone behind our decision making process as to who does and doesn’t get privileges.  Beyond basic checkouts, the Safety Office deals with a constant stream of “exception requests” where a member is looking for a currency override (it does happen) or a phase check exemption (it does happen).  The Safety Office also handles each and every Flight Feedback Form where a member or CFI makes an observation about some other member/CFI that they deem as unsafe.  While this may appear to be tattling, it’s a big part of a positive safety culture where the club can follow-up and try to make things better, both for the person involved but also the club at large.

It isn’t any one of these things that makes the difference but all of them combined.  We’ll continue to try to further improve the safety culture at the club without adding more burdens to the flying members.  So, please continue to do your part to maintain our safety culture and resulting safety record.  It is indeed something worth celebrating. 

Safe Flying