Nov. 8, 2022

The FAA this week hosted the General Aviation Surface Safety Symposium, a conversation about safety concerns in general aviation focusing on runway safety and flight training.

Alex Gertsen, CAM, NBAA’s director of airports and ground infrastructure, participated on a panel with an FAA Flight Standards representative, a flight instructor and a certified flight instructor student. The panel discussed challenges unique to general aviation operations from a variety of perspectives.

“Business aviation encompasses a diverse range of operations, aircraft and pilots,” said Gertsen. ”As you can imagine, it ranges from two pilots flying complex jets internationally or long distance, to single pilot King Airs, PC-12s and a number of other aircraft, so we operate at a diverse number of airports and we have to be prepared for different situations and be cognizant of the challenges that are ahead.”

As the panel shared methods to mitigate surface risks, Martin Missey, a ground instructor who is studying to be a certified flight instructor, said crew resource management, or single pilot resource management in the case of single pilot operations, is key to mitigating risk, reminding pilots to use all resources available to them, including other pilots on board.

Preflight planning, including becoming familiar with taxi routes to and from the FBO, being aware of airport signage and markings, and practicing “heads up” maneuvering while on the ground are other keys to mitigating the risk of surface accidents or incidents.

Gertsen described the benefits of automation in modern aircraft, saying automation, when used properly, significantly improves situational awareness especially in maneuvering in very low visibility on the surface. He encouraged attendees to consider purchasing an iPad or other device to take advantage of apps that provide this heightening situational awareness, adding that pilots should practice using these devices with an instructor on board until the pilot is familiar and comfortable with the device and apps.

“As humans, we are not great multi-taskers,” said Gertsen, suggesting that while automation is helpful, pilots should have a personal policy about where cell phones and other devices should be stored while taxiing. If devices must be used to communicate with a scheduler or flight follower, messages should be read and transmitted while stopped at a safe location.

“Ultimately we want to be as proud of our professional pilot acumen in the air as we are on the ground,” said Gertsen.

View the symposium’s morning session.

View the symposium’s afternoon session.