Mnemonics are an easy tool for remembering useful tips or advice. Consider this one: SAFE-P.
S for Situation: In what environment are you flying? Is it an air show or a practice session? Where is the crowd line? Is it over water? Close to hangars? Where are the divert fields? Do you know this aerobatic box? Will it be empty or is there a possibility of conflicting traffic? Who is performing before you? Will their performance impact yours? Consider the situations you’ve been in and the physical, physiological and psychological stresses you have found yourself under in the past.
A for Aircraft: Did the logistics get taken care of? Gas? Smoke? Oil? A little extra air in the tailwheel tire? Do you need a working transponder to fly in this airspace? And don’t forget the basics here either. Is it in annual? Did she just come out of maintenance? Has anything been done to the plane since you last flew it that might impact your flight today?
F for Flight: None are critical. Again for emphasis: there’s no such thing as a critical flight. If you are going to fly, what will affect you? Weather? Wind? Choice of runway? Other traffic or acts? Consider them all in your decision. And remember that one of the most professional and thoughtful words in the English language is, “No.”
E for Environment: There are literally thousands of combinations of wind, sun, rain, cloud cover, etc. The point here is to THINK about what you’re doing and where you’re doing it. Always have an out.
P for Pilot: Is your mind in the game? Are you well enough to fly? Distractions? There are folks getting their doctorates on subjects like these and we don’t have the time here to go into all the details. But, at the end of the day, you are the only one who truly knows when you are or are not ready to fly your air show performance.
We’ll address all of these issues in considerably more depth in future issues of Ops Bull. To the old hands, it may prove tedious; you already think about all this stuff. But not everybody does and everybody has little nit-noid personal problems that creep into their day.