Arizona's pilot population is as varied as our weather and geography. From student pilots training here from around the globe, to private pilots living here to take advantage of 300+ flying days per year, to airline pilots based at one of the nation's busiest commercial airports, to military pilots from across the state, our pilot demographics cover it all. When we think of mistakes that pilots make, we tend to put them into one of two categories. We think of low time pilots who make newbie mistakes, or stubborn old pilots with poor decision-making skills. We tend to think that competency and currency help to prevent mistakes. Even our FARs are packed with currency requirements. Often, our insurance requires it, as well. If you've been reading Jim Timm's Executive Director's report over the past several months, you'll notice the double-digit counts for pilot deviations. This happens every month. These deviations are caused by all levels of pilots from student to airline to military without prejudice. So, currency and competency don't seem to be common factors. So, what's happening?
We rarely learn what caused a pilot to make the deviation in the first place. I love to learn from the mistakes of others. Kathryn's Report, the NTSB accident database, the Nall Report, etc... are great sources of learning how not to do what the other guy or gal did. On flights with friends, I do see a common thread. While it's not become unsafe, I see a frequent reliance on in-cockpit avionics or displays, rather than maintaining total situational awareness. This has resulted in a friend transmitting, "Say again last instruction," after they'd just read it back but promptly forgot it. In our three-dimensional airspace, we often see our little jet icon on our EFB in the X/Y format, but we don't often picture the Z. With the Phoenix Class B airspace, this is a critical piece of information that can easily result in a deviation. While my hypothesis is not scientifically based and is anecdotal based on only my experience, reading summary reports tends to back up my theory. For me, many of these reports have changed my behaviors for the better as my experience builds.
I recommend reading through the pilot deviations and accident summaries each month in this newsletter. Reflect on your flying discipline and determine if changes can be made to make you a safer pilot. The FAA shares this information with the APA in hopes of reducing the number of deviations while increasing safety. Be that pilot your instructor encouraged you to be while you were learning. Pretend he or she is looking over your shoulder and ready to smack the back of your head with the E6-B should you make that mistake. Fly safe.