The Preface – an excerpt from ‘Setting The Standard’

Hello Aviators,
I am so excited to be able to offer you the contents of this book. At The Finer Points™ our business is using new media technologies to provide pilots options for learning and achieving excellence in flight safety. This format provides us some outstanding opportunities for teaching and is best viewed in the landscape orientation. Those who know me know that I am passionate about safety. There is some deeply satisfying feeling that occurs when you’ve considered the risks, gone over the details, expected the best but planned for the worst and finally you arrive at your destination safely. Mission accomplished. Even when certain ‘outs’ get executed it’s still part of the plan. Flying takes this experience to its logical limit. The stakes are high and the rewards equally so. In over ten years as a full-time flight instructor I have found one major difference between general aviation and commercial operations: Standard Operating Procedures or SOPs. Standard procedures are part of the methodology of professional aviators and are a critical component to the outstanding safety record they maintain. In general aviation flight training there is a conspicuous absence of procedures. Partially as a result of this, general aviation is, statistically, five hundred times more fatal than it’s commercial counterparts, depending on the period observed. This book examines the role that standard operating procedures play in safe operations and offers five simple procedures that will help keep you safe and proficient no matter how often you fly.I, like all pilots, have had those moments when I wasn’t prepared. Some contingency not considered, or worse ... considered and dismissed because I assumed it wouldn’t be a factor. These experiences have only reinforced my commitment to safety and excellence in flying. After all, that is why we count the hours, right? As a professional instructor striving to achieve excellence, I looked at what the airlines, cargo operations and other professionals were doing to achieve their outstanding record of safety.
In every case I examined I found the use of standard operating procedures was critical. It begins to stand out how few procedures we teach our students. Think of what, if any, SOPs you already use in your flying.  The run up perhaps? Everywhere I look I see SOPs as a fundamental component to safe flying. Even in single pilot commercial operations, such as cargo flying, the pilots are expected to use the company SOPs and to say the appropriate callouts at the appropriate times. It is the only way to achieve consistency and redundancy, which are both cornerstones of safe flying habits - and the pros know it. There are standard procedures in General Aviation, it’s just that they are vague. There is no consistency in their application and no measure to enforce compliance. As a result bad procedures get passed down as a kind of tribal knowledge. In some cases the   GA community attempts to transpose procedures from a two crew environment to a single pilot environment. A checklist is a great example of this. It is my pleasure to be able to bring you this multimedia book. It’s an introduction to SOPs and will dramatically effect the safety of your flying. Contained within are some procedures I’ve found valuable in my courses and my own flying. It is my hope that you will have fun learning them and will adopt them into your own flying. Please enjoy and until next time ...
Be Safe and Fly Your Best!
Jason Miller, CFI

Some thoughts on standardization …

I really believe that a large part of the difference between the safety record of commercial operators and that of GA pilots is due to a lack of standardization. For those who haven't crunched the numbers the commercial operators are more than two hundred times safer than it's GA counterparts. In 2010 alone there were four hundred and fifty fatal GA accidents. Not deaths. Individual accidents. We are losing pilots in this industry in part because people fear general aviation. Safety matters to all of us ... please enjoy this excerpt from my upcoming iBook, 'Setting The Standard' ...

One might say about flight training that through a disciplined pattern of repetition you will conquer the mundane, be ready for the unexpected and transform yourself into an aviator. Through confidence you will free your mind so that you may enjoy the flight deeply. Please indulge me in this metaphor, but it took me a long time to understand why people like the blues.
The music, blues.
First of all there is a lot of bad blues out there. But I, like so many, thought for a long time that all blues sound the same. I thought this for a fairly good reason, and that is that all blues do sound the same. Sort of. It’s all based around a very rigid format. That’s why a band leader can yell to the gang ...
“This one is blues in E!”
and they all know what he is talking about. Blues follows a very strict chord pattern (with some variations). It took me a while to get that therein lies its beauty. If you can make blues unique and emotional then you understand the music. The constraints are what make the deviations cool. Think Stevie Ray Vaughan. You may not consider him the best blues man around but he certainly reinvented the sound within the constraints of the form.
It’s similar to learning aerobatics in an Aerobat or a Citabria. If you can manage the energy there, with not a lot to spare, then you can fly aerobatics. How about no engines at all? Think Bob Hoover, who performed his entire aerobatic routine without the use of power. In a business class twin. It’s the constraints that make the deviations great.
Applying standardization to certain aspects of your flying will, in the same way, impose constraints on you that do not have a limiting effect but rather embolden you through confidence in the form to reach your full potential as a pilot.
One of the most important things I can offer you is to help you develop a ritualistic approach to your flying that will allow you to cast off the mental burdens and stresses of your everyday life as you head to the airport to undertake a flight. Standard procedures encourage this development naturally. It’s challenging. It’s challenging to perform seemingly mundane tasks with the same focused attention to detail each and every time you do it, day in and day out, flight after flight and year after year. Yet that is exactly what it takes to achieve perfection from the stand point of safety. Professional pilots have no choice. You have a choice. A choice you must make and commit yourself to.

A Rag Is A Drag

One of the things I find consistently more difficult as I gain experience flying is maintaining the diligence I know is required to maintain safety. I believe in standard operating procedures. I practice them and I teach them. I’m a full time professional CFI, after all, so most of my flight time is in an instructional environment and yet I still find that my procedures continually need tweaking and improvement. I most often fly in the training environment, one in which we have the luxury of always choosing the safest option. There is no training mission that HAS to be flown ... there are very few external time pressures ... we follow protocol every single time (as a matter of training as much as maintaing safe operating procedures).

It’s beautiful really ... always flying the ideal. It makes it easy to know when you stray from the formula. None of us are perfect and we can only aspire to fly the ideal flight every time. Half the challenge is knowing what the ideal is. It’s satisfying (on some level) (but also humbling) when I find some of this diligence proving it’s worth. Just last weekend I found a rag in the cowling of an airplane during the preflight. There I was, checking out in a new make and model that had just returned from maintenance. I found it during the preflight ... barely. Now, every time I teach a student to preflight for the first time I say ... “make sure to look inside the cowling for rags ... or wrenches ... or anything else a mechanic might have accidentally left inside the cowling. ... yes, you’d be surprised, it can happen”

The humbling truth is ... if this wasn’t my first time in this make and model ... and it didn’t have retractable gear ... I probably would not have seen this oil soaked rag, wrapped like perfect kindling around a motor that was about to see temperatures in excess of 240 degrees.

It was only noticeable when you were flat on your back looking up through the open gear doors. You would have had to have been looking for it if the only access you had was through oil door or air intakes. After the cowling was removed the rag was clearly visible as you can see from the number 2 photo. How much time do you really spend looking through the oil door, or through the cooling air intakes? I learned last weekend that I will be spending more time from now on. Not just for mechanic’s error but also for birds nests or anything else one can think of. Then it’s time to behave like an airline. When they have an close call, accident or incident they evaluate their standard operating procedures to ensure mistakes are not made and caught when they are. It’s a call to action not just to a better preflight but to all of your SOP’s. It’s a shot across the bow. A warning to remember your training. As cliche as it is remember to ‘turn around and walk away ... live to fly another day’. Find your inner skeptic. Look for the reason you shouldn’t go flying. And the hardest part ... as I learned on Sunday ... don’t get slack! Your procedures, as rote and mundane as they might be, will be your safeguard and assurance that you are being safe and flying your best.

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Adventure Training 2012