Oct. 7, 2020

The two-day Single-Pilot Safety Standdown, part of NBAA’s first-ever Virtual Safety Week, wrapped up Tuesday, Oct. 6 with “Options for Success” – a real-life single-pilot scenario presented by Tom Turner, executive director of the American Bonanza Society Air Safety Foundation, and lessons in flight operations leadership from Todd Simmons, Cirrus Aircraft’s president of customer experience.

Turner presented a real-life single-pilot flight – a trip from Wichita, KS to Cincinnati, OH for a holiday visit – to illustrate the importance of pre-flight and contingency planning, as well as exercising good decision-making skills during the flight. Turner suggested pilots:

  • >Make a plan, or several plans, well in advance, including passengers and other people involved in the trip in your planning
    • One plan option is not to go – “no trip is worth accepting unreasonable risk,” Turner said. 
  • Plan your route to allow for “B or C” contingencies, if plan A goes awry. For example, choose airports with scheduled airline service, so if the weather along the planned route deteriorates, you can send passengers home on an airline, or drive the remainder of the trip
  • Manage expectations – for your passengers, people you are planning to visit and yourself

“It’s all about managing expectations,” which can help relieve stress well before having to make diversions or changes to the trip plans, Turner said.

Simmons then shared a video highlighting Cirrus Aircraft’s culture of safety and lessons he learned as pilot-in-command during an aircraft accident.

Simmons explained he is not a “professional pilot” in that flying isn’t his day job, but he aims to fly to the same standards as a paid pilot. Many Cirrus pilots and owners have the same goal of professionalism even though they use the aircraft to further their businesses, as a “time machine,” and not necessarily for commercial purposes.

Simmons used his own accident on a backcountry strip in Idaho as an example of a single-pilot flight gone wrong. In his own analysis, normalization of deviation, lack of a solid plan and little recent experience in the aircraft and backcountry flying are some factors that led to the accident.

NBAA Safety Committee Chairman Tom Huff, aviation safety officer of Gulfstream Aerospace, closed the event by circling back to day 1 of the Standdown: encouraging attendees to develop their mastery of single-pilot operations over time and urging them to give back to the industry as a mentor or instructor. Learn more about the roadmap to mastery.

Virtual Safety Week continues Wednesday, Oct. with a Safety Town Hall, followed by the National Safety Forum on Thursday and Friday, Oct. 8-9. Learn more about Virtual Safety Week.